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The Aptitude Blog

How to lead in difficult times

February 2, 2023
Posted by Becky Barsellotti

Authored by Becky Barsellotti, Managing Director, GiANT London and previously published in The Digital CFO Magazine.

It is undisputed that we find ourselves in difficult times. It’s during these challenging times that effective leadership becomes more important than ever. But what does effective leadership look like? In this short article, we look at two key leadership principles which will help you lead your team more effectively amidst the current challenges.

Support Challenge Matrix

Aptitude Image Table 1

The premise of the Support Challenge Matrix is simple: to be a liberating leader you have to learn to calibrate the right balance of high support and high challenge for each member of your team. The good news is that we can all be liberating leaders if we are intentional; the bad news is that none of us are natural Liberators.

Some of us are very competitive, task focused and highly driven. We don’t need to learn how to bring High Challenge, rather we have to learn how to balance that with High Support. Some of you are highly relational, empathetic, caring and always aware of others’ needs. For you, High Support is a given, and learning how to increase the Challenge will be the growth opportunity.

When leaders are accidental they create either Dominating or Protecting cultures and that never allows a team to perform at its best. Sadly, leaders define culture so if you don’t like the culture of your team then one of two things has happened – you’ve either abdicated leadership or you’re looking in the mirror at your own dysfunction!

The first question to ask yourself is: what’s it like to be on the other side of my leadership right now? Have an honest look at the Support Challenge Matrix and ask which quadrant you are functioning in most often each day. Remember, we probably enter all the quadrants at some point throughout every day, but the key is to know what growth looks like for us as leaders and to stay intentional – to ask ourselves, where do I need to grow in terms of supporting or challenging my team, and how might that look for each of them?

The first question to ask yourself is: what’s it like to be on the other side of my leadership right now?

Leader Mindset

This tool is a natural companion to the Support Challenge Matrix and forces you to regularly ask if you are really willing to ‘fight for the highest possible good’ in the lives of those you lead. All the HR research shows that people leave leaders, they don’t leave organizations. In an era of full employment, the ability to retain and develop your key talent is one of the most important skills for all leaders. When your team believes you are for them and committed to their long term success they will give you everything. Even if they eventually move on, they will remain brand ambassadors for you and your organization.

The Leader Mindset tool asks three important questions for you to think through for each person you lead. You can use these in 1:1 discussions or simply to guide your own thinking at the start of your working week. A word of advice on the third question, ‘How do I help them get to the next level?’ Make sure there is alignment between what you constitute as their ‘next level’ and their vision for their own future. It may not be in the same profession! However, being led by someone who is committed to being a Liberating Leader and genuinely committed to their long term future will engender a huge sense of loyalty and commitment.

Aptitude Table Image 2

In summary, your ability to successfully lead ‘uphill’ in these difficult times is determined by your willingness to hold up the mirror to your own leadership and use these simple but profound tools. Are you willing to work at being a Liberating Leader? Are you committed to fighting for the highest possible good of all those you lead? Most leadership is accidental. For those of you who are courageous enough to get intentional, you can thrive in the complexity and uncertainty of today’s economic challenges.


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This blog post was written by:

Becky Barsellotti
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