Advance or Retreat

You are a leader. You have a responsibility to take the right decisions. The right decisions for your organisation, for your people, for yourself and for our wider society.

So when times are tough, when costs rise and income falls what do you do?

Do you cut back, conserve what you have and wait it out?

Do you ignore it and hope it won't affect you?

Do you innovate and become even more creative to find alternatives that work under the new conditions?

The first two are quite natural reactions. When something that frightens us approaches it is quite natural to either retreat or deny (for as long as possible), but the fact that they are natural reactions does not make them the right reactions in business.

A recent study by the University of Cambridge shows that success leads to greater boldness (and potentially to over reaching), while poor performance can lead to conservativeness. According to the study these are hormonal responses where success leads to higher levels of testosterone promoting higher levels of risk taking and fear leads to higher levels of cortisol and more caution.

Our hormonal responses evolved over millions of years to help us deal with the conditions we experienced at that time. When we were hunter gatherers these responses would have been entirely appropriate, but are they still appropriate in our modern society?

If we retreat when conditions are challenging we may actually be increasing the risks rather than reducing them.

For example if many people respond by retreating out of fear of crisis that alone will create a crisis.

If the market changes and what we have been doing is no longer appropriate for the market, then might it not be better to do something that is appropriate for the market, rather than just less of what is not appropriate.

As leaders our role is to predict and preempt crisis with new strategies for success, not to wait for it to hit and then retreat to a less painful place.

Those who succeed in challenging times are the ones who seek out and create opportunities.

This means investing time and energy in creative meetings to find opportunities that your existing assets can service under new market conditions. Rather than investing time and energy in meetings to work out who to make redundant.


Neil is an author, coach, facilitator and consultant who helps individuals and businesses find high levels of success and fulfilment by being true to themselves. Neil runs events, coaches and consults on core motivation, team building and authentic leadership. Neil has raced cars, started, run, sold and closed businesses. He has been a senior manager in an international corporation and transformed his own life.

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