Leading On Management: Five Keys to Leading a Turn Around

It takes a special breed of leadership to lead a turn around. To take an entity of any size whether they’re a team, department, or entire organization or industry from awful to awesome is quite a challenge. Not everyone can do it. Those who do are often hailed as heroes or sheroes.LEADTURNAROUND

When I think of the term “turn around”, I consider things like:

  • Profitability; from the brink of bankruptcy to amazing profitability
  • Organizational culture; from toxic to terrific
  • Productivity; from low productivity to high productivity
  • Waste; from excessive waste to a lean, mean, quality machine
  • Market share; from a sliver of the market to dominating the market

When it comes to people who have lead a turn around we may consider leaders like, Lee Iacocca with Chrysler, Steve Jobs with Apple, and the Philippian corrections officer in the Bible. Who?

There’s a story in the Bible about a Philippian jailor who found himself in an awful situation. He was asleep on the job one night until an earthquake came and shook things up. The quake caused the handcuffs and shackles to fall from the wrists and ankles of the inmates and, when the jailor awakened, he assumed they escaped. In that day and time something like this could cost him more than his career. It could literally cost him his life. Feeling like he had nothing to live for, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself until the inmates yelled through the darkness, “Don’t hurt yourself. We’re all here.” Through a series of events, he is at home enjoying an awesome time with his family…and the inmates.

The story had an awful beginning, but an awesome ending. He lead himself to a turn around. His story provides five keys to empower us to lead ourselves and others to dramatic improvement.

1. Accurate Assessment

The jailor assumed the inmates escaped. He was wrong and it nearly killed him.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” ― Max DePree

Leading a turn around begins with accurately defining what’s going on. It is vital to get to the root cause of the situation and estimate, as accurately as possible, how much time, cost, manpower, etc. may be required to make improvement happen.

It is also worth noting that the jailor was self-destructive until he listened to the inmates. Listening helped him see things more clearly and with greater precision. Leaders would do well to listen to others who can provide critical information necessary for accurately assessing what’s really going on.

2. Vision for the Future

The correction officer’s story ends with an awesome scene. He, his family, and the inmates were in his home having a blast. Everything worked out just fine. He couldn’t see it when he was about to kill himself, though. Lack of vision can prove deadly when it comes to people’s lives and the lives of teams and organizations.

If you want to lead a turn around, develop a vision for the future. Imagine how awesome things can become. Repeatedly articulate it to the people you lead in concise and compelling ways. Vision inspires us. It brings out the best in us. It is the fuel we need to keep going.

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” -Steve Jobs

3. Courageous Curiosity

The jailor was courageous enough to ask a question that made him examine himself. He did not assume he was not part of the problem and asked a question that opened the door to feedback. He asked, “What must I do to be saved?” There are two essential principles in his question:

1. What must be done? In other words, what are the non-negotiable factors for the turn around? The answer to this question goes something like Things will not turn around if _______________ is not done.

2. What must I do? Is there anything critical that only the leader can do in order to turn things around? What cannot be delegated?

Demonstrate inquisitive leadership and be courageously curious. Don’t assume you’re not part of the problem.

4. Strategic Solutions

The response to his question was, “Believe.” He had to change his thinking. It was an essential component of his strategy to change his situation for the better.

Leading a turn around requires strategic solutions with immediate, short-term, and long-term goals that all make the vision become a reality. Set goals and assign roles pertinent personnel will play to help reach them. Be flexible with the goals and change them when necessary. Determine and execute action steps. Hold people accountable. Create short-term wins. Keep everyone motivated. Keep moving forward.

5. Divine Connections

I believe it was God’s divine providence that brought the jailor and the inmates together. They connected on a deep level. They were beaten before they were locked up. Although he didn’t hurt them, the jailor washed their wounds.

This is a tremendous demonstration of empathy, which is one of the pillars of emotional intelligence (EI). Leaders with high EI are more likely to connect and resonate with the people they lead and produce better results than dissonant leaders. This is especially true in times of crisis.

David Clarke

David Clarke

Dreamer, Encourager, Life-Changer, Believer at Pastor David Anthony Clarke, SR
Flint, MI native, David Anthony Clarke, is a pastor, speaker, self-published author of two books, honorably discharged U.S. Marine, and wanna be blogger at pastorclarke.com David received an A.S. in Business (Barstow Community College), B.A. in Leadership, and M.S. in Organizational Performance (Bellevue University). Clarke’s e-newsletter, Enjoy the Journey, is published monthly and his weekly Clarkehouse Leadership Moment radio broadcast is heard on several stations in middle Georgia. Clarke is empowering future generations of leaders as an adjunct professor at Ft. Valley State University and through his own online courses at pastorclarke.com. He has also written several book reviews for the National Baptist Voice magazine. Pastor Clarke and his wife, Michelle, launched Clarkehouse Ministries in 2001 to empower dreamers to grow personally and professionally as they realize their dreams. He travels extensively conducting retreats and seminars on inquisitive leadership, strategic planning, personal development, and performance improvement. He has provided motivational speeches and/or spiritual support for the GA Dept of Labor, City of Warner Robins, GA Christian Business Network, Albany State University, Ft. Valley State University, and Johnson C. Smith University. Clarke preaches regularly in local prisons, and has ministered in Japan, Haiti, and Ghana, West Africa.
David Clarke
David Clarke
David Clarke



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