Leading In Turbulent Times

Oct 17, 2017 | GPLN Blog

Have you ever been on a flight with a lot of turbulence?  ‘A little bumpy’ doesn’t seem to describe it.  It feels like the bottom drops out, the wind is jerking the plane sideways, and any way it wants. Those thunderous sounds you hear might not be a nearby thunderstorm, it’s the plane itself.  In those moments, rational reasoning goes out the window.  You start looking around for the exit, and you wonder when those oxygen masks are going to drop.  Your eyes widen, and the wrinkles on your forehead appear.  You’re on high alert, preparing for the worst.  You might even begin to think about the person flying the plane.  You want to know they have trained for this, and are having a good day (at least until this moment).

We are living in turbulent times in our country and our world.  These times call for a different kind of leadership, a leadership that is steady and remains calm in the face of uncertainty and stormy weather.  A pilot, if well trained, should know what to do when encountering turbulence.  In the same way, a leader can also know what to do in difficult times.

A pilot needs to know the instruments and what they mean in order to navigate when its completely dark and the horizon cannot be seen.  Leaders also need to be able to read and understand the measurements or signs of what happening as well…and know what to do about the data received.

Pilots don’t have an option to quit while they are experiencing turbulence.  We depend on them to navigate us safely through, around, or over the chaos of turbulence.  But when it comes to leadership, turbulence has caused many a leader to throw in the towel, at the very moment when we need them to lead…or to do something at least.  I believe we are in one of those seasons now.  Will leaders actually lead, or seek fairer weather elsewhere (minus the times when its clear a leader needs to step aside).

A pilot needs to remain calm and focused, especially when the plane begins to jerk and drop, and make strange sounds.  Leaders too, need to stay focused when they encounter problems within the organizations they lead.  They cannot allow emotion to cloud their judgement or focus.

A pilot also reassures passengers that everything is under control, when turbulence hits.  A good pilot might even know beforehand and reassure passengers before it happens, so they can appropriately prepare.  Leaders also need to be able to speak with calmness and authority, reassuring those along for the ride that it could get bumpy, but it’s all under control.

How would you faire through tumultuous seasons of leadership?  Do you have what it takes to lead through turbulent times?  Let’s take an inventory, and build up whatever is lacking…before the storm hits.

Join us this Thursday, October 19th at the next Grand Point Leadership Network breakfast gathering from 7:15 – 8:30 AM, where Chad Chute will be leading our conversation about “Leading In Turbulent Times.”

Continue the conversation

How have you experienced turbulence in your leadership journey?

Who is someone you know that has led successfully through turbulence?

What would you say a leader needs in order to navigate through turbulence?


Doug Coldsmith currently serves as the Director of Discipleship and Communications at Chambersburg First Church of God since July 2016.  Previously, he has served in social services through several local non-profit human service agencies, and in church planting and youth ministry work, after earning a bachelor’s degree from Huntington University in 1998.  He, his wife Cressa, and their two teenage sons, Caleb and Coby, live in Chambersburg, PA.


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