February 18, 2009

When I prepared my fall 2008 column, we did not yet know who would be the 44th U.S. President. What we did know was that new leadership was on the horizon.

Now, several months later during a trip to Washington, D.C., it was clear to me that there is a new feeling in the air. There is a sense of momentum, of a commitment to taking action to solve our nation's economic problems, even as the enormity of the problems rises to an unprecedented level.

However, things are still in flux. Many uncertainties remain and many debates are yet to be had, on subjects ranging from the global financial crisis to health care reform and foreign policy—all of which may have very real effects on the day-to-day operations of businesses large and small.

In the midst of this economic sea change, leadership is more important than ever. From the White House and from the executive suite, we need leaders who can effectively communicate a vision for their businesses while successfully implementing an updated strategy that takes into account the changes in the economy. Strong leaders are willing to bring their many stakeholders to the table and, by aligning what appear to be the diverse interests of these critical parties, can create a collective strength that will help their companies meet unprecedented business challenges.

For example, your key employees are likely to be concerned about job security, while your most important customers might be focused on ensuring a predictable flow of products and services. Vendors and suppliers may be nervous about maintaining your business in the short term, while stockholders are likely to want assurances of long-term viability. Ultimately, each of these parties has a strong interest in the success of your business—and it is up to you to identify and tap into the resources they can provide to achieve this objective.

The potential rewards are great. Perhaps most important, strong leadership will build increased trust and confidence in your company. And in an era of profound uncertainty, these may be the greatest assets of them all.

This article contains material of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. Under applicable rules of professional conduct, this content may be regarded as attorney advertising.