Directing the course

January marks the beginning of another new year, and I am optimistic that this will be a good one.

Many of us would just as soon forget the past three years, but many great lessons come out of tough times. In difficult times, a company’s leadership is critical to its survival. The word leadership has been often overused and misinterpreted. Sometimes I wonder if people truly understand what leadership is. The dictionary definition is “to show the way” or “direct the course.” Are you doing either of these things?

Many leaders lack the character to direct the way or show the course and not be swayed by the people around them. I am not suggesting you ignore your people or fail to gather as much information as possible to make good decisions; however, once the decision has been made, you need to live with the outcome. Directing the course takes leadership, and staying the course takes character.

During difficult times, leadership with strong character is needed to succeed. Many people claim to be good leaders, but the fruits of their labor do not show it. Here are several principles needed to be a good leader through good — and bad — times.

* Make tough decisions. Don’t be afraid to make tough calls. People are looking for leadership and want to have confidence that the leader is making decisions for the good of the company. You have to set the course by making these decisions.

* Stay focused. Don’t get sidetracked by contrary opinions. Do your research, make the decision, and stick with it. Changing objectives is usually counterproductive.

* Be innovative. Know what separates you from your competitors. To serve your customers, it is critical to offer something that differentiates you from the pack. When you understand your advantages, decision-making becomes easier.

* Be patient. Decisions might take weeks, months or even years to show results. Those based on solid facts will almost always come out in your favor.

The test of a person’s character is what makes a great leader. Don’t be swayed from your core values or beliefs based on other people’s opinions. No matter where you stand, people will always disagree with you.

Look at our president. The country seems divided on him, but he continues to score high on character and leadership. People may disagree with his decisions, but they don’t question his character or leadership.

Would your employees say the same thing about you? Stick to your values, show character, make the tough decisions and direct the course for your company, and everything else will fall into place.