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Five Lessons for Business Leaders in Turbulent Times

It is often said that effective leaders get going when the going gets tougher. The actual test of leadership is in turbulent times when you are struggling against all odds. Effective leadership drives overall development of the organization.

Today’s global economy is characterized by a world full of uncertainty, ambiguity, volatility and complexity. Rapid and unpredictable changes brought by disruptive and exponential technologies are reshaping organizational challenges. The challenge of such turbulent times can only be met by employing an appropriate blend of different leadership styles.

Leaders in all sectors of the industry are being frequently challenged to adapt their leadership styles depending on the situation.

According to PepsiCo Chairperson and CEO Indra Nooyi, “turbulence is the beginning of a fruitful process of transformation.” Her advice is to stay calm during turbulent times. While narrating how Pepsico faced turbulent times during the global slowdown and financial crisis, Ms Nooyi added that “Don’t take an eye on the short term but think long”. She further said that in turbulent times, leaders need to handle the crisis with courage and conviction. When faced with challenging times, “One should not shy away from creating an environment of adaptability”, feels Ms Nooyi. Last but not the least, “You cannot deliver value unless you anchor the company’s values. Values make an unsinkable ship,” said Ms. Nooyi.

Taking clue from the experiences of top global business leadership, here are some of the lessons for the leaders in business to learn from crisis and turbulent times.

1. Ability to see long term – Business leaders need foresight with which they can handle the turbulent times during any global slowdown and financial crisis.

2. Create resilient systems – Business world is very dynamic where change is the only constant. No company can remain aloof from externalities. It has to deal firmly with unpleasant times. Leaders can’t anticipate for those events but they can plan and create systems that will make it possible for them to respond to events confidently.

3. Explore opportunities – Leading in turbulence means to keep all options open. Good leaders see the possibility of finding value in every adverse situation. May be there is some opportunity which has the potential to commercialize. Strategic leaders don’t wait around for the good times to return. They make decisions in ambiguity and motivate others to influence to lead upwards and across.

4. Re-strategize your plans – Value creation in turbulent times is unlikely to come by doing more of the same thing again and again. Leaders need to restructure their short term and long term goals.

5. Self Motivated – Turbulence can lead to stress and anxiety which can lower morale increasing uncertainty of decisions. A leader must have the discipline and focus to remain steady. Should have the emotional maturity to accept turbulence with calm and grace. Since he has to provide a dynamic leadership to the team, therefore he has to keep the organization functioning effectively in the midst of the turbulence. Moreover, every situation has hidden opportunities to develop further. A true leader should keep developing his or her own capability and effectiveness during difficult times.


The key to surviving in turbulent times is to choose to pursue new opportunities for creating value in the whole situation. Hold on to your larger purpose of running the business enterprise. Agility combined with resilience, purpose, flexibility of platforms and a focus on the long term business objectives will help you to navigate successfully through the stormy times ahead.

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