When Times are Tough
advice for ministry and business leaders
from the former cEO of arrow leader-
every leader will face times when it seems that every- thing is falling apart. Whether set off by external events or internal
mistakes, a crisis can be a distressing time. The emotions
of everyone on the team are thrown into turmoil as past
hard work and the future are at once placed in jeopardy.
Everyday work gets more difficult as people lose focus
and worry about the dire consequences the crisis could bring.
It is precisely at times like these that leaders emerge.
A business leader from Montreal reminded me today,
“When times are great, there are lots of leaders – every
vision works! But when times are tough – that’s when you
see true leadership.”
The leader has to be the one who remains cool under
pressure. The one who behind closed doors is on bended
knees asking God for wisdom, guidance and support. The
leader has to be the one who consolidates people and
resources, identifies alternatives, selects the best course of
action and confidently works toward fulfilling the mission.
The leader is the one who also tries to help each teammate
deal with the emotions of the moment. The leader needs
to show his or her people the light at the end of the tun-
nel with a confident plan that moves successfully beyond
To be an exceptional leader, you need to prepare well
before the tough times hit. You should have a solid awareness of what to do and how to act during a crisis so that
you can move forward in confidence when the pressure is
on. Here are some leadership tips for tough times:
Focus on your vision. Economic malaise is temporary,
as is economic vigour. It’s your vision that’s permanent,
with its associated mission, values and strategy. Ensure it
is sound, and reiterate it to your team.
Sharpen your core competencies. Every ministry or
organization has a unique and special calling that differentiates it from others. Sharpen yours.
Bring good people alongside. During any economic
downturn you truly find out who your friends are. Get together with them, seeking counsel, wisdom and partnerships.
Redeploy. When times are tough, redeploy the best
people to lead initiatives suited to their gifts. Are there
volunteers who can assist? Is there a new way for you to
deliver your services?
Guard your cash. Use money prudently to maintain
current operations and invest it wisely for the future, including the future hiring of new employees.
Manage your knowledge. Capture, process, disseminate and leverage your unique knowledge. Strengthen your
knowledge and relationship management systems or, if
you don’t have any, develop them.
Eliminate the valueless. Now is the time to cull the activities that don’t enhance core values, to reengineer your
processes, and to ruthlessly eliminate anything wasteful.
While it never feels good, negative downturns are learning experiences that will strengthen you for the future.
The intense heat and pressure of a crisis both refines and
purifies you as a leader. FT
“Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now I have
kept thy word.” (Psalm 119:67, KJV)
I have been at this long enough to acknowledge both
the joys and the heartaches of leadership. Help me as
a leader to manage well the emotions of both the extremes. During difficult seasons help me not to take my
work too seriously or to become discouraged by the hard
work required at this time.
I believe You can take all situations and use them
Thank You for selecting me as a leader to guide during this time. It’s tough, Lord, and I cannot do it alone.
Perhaps that’s one of the good things that comes out of
difficult times – it forces me to my knees and creates a
willingness to hear from You.
Lord, I want to hold onto my work loosely. I recognize
You are my true source of significance and security – not
my job or my role. But tough times often call for hard
work, so help me to put the pieces together, to be realistic
about my workload, generous with people and filled with
creativity that brings productivity, positive changes, pride
of accomplishment and enjoyable and fun relationships
amidst the challenges. I know You are preparing us for
the future. May You find me ready and willing.
Excerpt from Mentoring Wisdom: Living and Leading Well by
carson pue (castle Quay Books/Foundation Distributors,
2011). pue recently stepped down as cEO of arrow leadership to become executive director at First Baptist church
in Vancouver. he is also author of the best-seller Mentoring
Leaders: Wisdom for Developing Character, Calling
and Competency (Baker Books, 2005).