Survival of the Fittest in a Tough Economy

Good leadership separates the strong from the expendable

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Call it natural selection: a concept developed by 19th century scientist Charles Darwin that argues only animals able to adapt will survive. This has everything to do with business, too.

It’s easy to do well when everyone is thriving. But crisis shines light on great leaders and not-so-great leaders. We’ve seen it in the ailing financial sector. Bear Stearns, AIG, Countrywide, and banking institutions with poor management and leadership met a wretched demise when the going got tough. Repackaging loans as investment instruments may have, in part, caused this meltdown, but it was poor leadership that allowed it to happen.

In today’s economic climate, leadership will determine which companies not only weather to downturn, but emerge triumphant.

“A good leader leads from the front,” says Rob Roy, founder of SOT-G, a leading company for military consultants, trainers, and executive/force protection. “Employees want to see you.”

Roy hosted a panel at the 4th Annual Small Business Summit called “Business Survival: Learn from a Survival Expert.”

“Everybody is a great performer, but what are they doing for the company?” Roy says. “It’s not about what the individual does, it’s about what the group can do. ”

He stressed the importance of team building and teamwork in every part of an organization.  “It’s the guy washing the windows that’s going to turn your customers away,” he says, as he urging companies to reinforce company goals at all levels of an organization.

Here are a few tips about leadership I picked up at the summit:

Pay attention to trends. What are people talking about online, in blogs, and in daily conversations? How can you incorporate “the next big thing” into your business?

It’s not all doom and gloom. Contrary to the daily new reports, it’s not all bad. Innovation is imperative, not just in terms of products, but also in terms of efficiency. IBM’s personal computer, a top-selling PC for many years, was created during an economic slowdown.

Engage! Engage! Engage! Gone are the days of talking at customers. Companies that a successful now, and that will continue to be success, talk to their customers. This is where social media can come in handy.

Be fearless. Sure, you may not be the most tech-savvy leader, but a good leader is not afraid to seek help from someone who is. It may be an entry-level worker or even the janitor. You may not know who in your company holds invaluable information. Seek them out and listen.

Entrepreneurs, chime in. How have you bolstered your leadership skills? What are you doing to make sure your company gets through the turmoil?

Renita Burns is the editorial assistant at

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