7 Leadership Lessons for Difficult Times

August 31, 2023

How transformative leadership can make the difference

The corporate culture is toxic, your boss has narcissistic traits, and the business environment is increasingly complex. Sound familiar?

For Sonal Trivedi, it does. The leadership expert, author, and graduate of the Global Executive MBA at the WU Executive Academy has experienced first-hand what it means to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in your career.

Instead of giving up, Sonal analyzed what it takes to move from "pain to gain" and successfully create professional and personal change. Here are her top seven leadership lessons that make transformational leadership possible.

Turning pain into gain: with these lessons, "Learn and Grow" succeeds. Image: shutterstock - Natalya Bardushka
Turning pain into gain: with these lessons, "Learn and Grow" succeeds. Image: shutterstock - Natalya Bardushka

Sonal Trivedi has been leading the Dallas-based leadership and management consultancy The Como Group together with her partner Christine Strobush since May 2020. She is a graduate of the WU Executive Academy's Global Executive MBA and also co-wrote the business thriller "The F Place" with Ms. Strobush, in which board member and Chief Commercial Officer Brianna successfully battles the toxic corporate culture at a pharmaceutical company.

During a Leadership Summit at Lake Como, Trivedi and Strobush - both of whom were still employed by a large corporation at the time - decided to eventually start their own company called "The Como Group."

When leading makes the difference: the Como factor

COMO is an acronym and stands for:

  • Clarity, which is clarity about the company's purpose and mission
  • Ownership, which is taking responsibility
  • Mindset
  • One of a kind, which is uniqueness as a leader and as an organization," says Sonal Trivedi.

The idea for the book came about during a Monday coffee after Trivedi and Strobush were laid off by their employer due to a large-scale cost-cutting program. The authors have packed their personal experiences into the fictional narrative.

For leadership expert Sonal Trivedi, there are seven great leadership lessons that she learned herself - some the hard way - and now passes on to leaders in large companies around the world:

1. Start with clarity, meaning and values

"Many years ago, I made a vow to myself: If I invest a significant amount of time in something, it must have great meaning for me and a positive impact on others. If I do something, it has to be meaningful - in the truest sense of the word," she says.

2. Live and lead according to your values

In order to have a transformative influence as a leader, it is important to be clear about one's own "why". Personal values cannot always be separated from professional ones. If integrity is very important to you then it is important in your private life as well as in your professional life, and it is then not an option, but a condition. That means that if your integrity is violated, it's time to draw consequences.

Sonal Trivedi Portrait

Sonal Trivedi

  • Global Executive MBA Alumna

When it comes to dismissals purely for profit, for example, that can be difficult. This is what happens to Brianna in the novel: she is supposed to terminate an important part of her team due to cost-cutting measures, but refuses - and quits herself.

3. "Ownership" starts with you

"A good leader feels responsible for his or her own behavior and actions. That means he or she also admits mistakes and draws consequences," says Sonal Trivedi. At the same time, it is also important to act, because "an idea without its execution remains a dream," says Trivedi. She observes lack of ownership and self-responsibility in many companies.

4. Your Mindset Counts

"It makes a huge difference the mindset with which you approach employee leadership - whether it's positive or negative. You can often tell by looking at a person before they've said a word," says the expert. Companies in our BANI world absolutely need leaders with a solution-oriented, positive mindset.

The right mindset counts - preferably solution-oriented and positive. Image: shutterstock - Rawpixel.com
The right mindset counts - preferably solution-oriented and positive. Image: shutterstock - Rawpixel.com

5. Be a unique leader

"We urgently need diversity in companies. This means that a person's uniqueness becomes significant to the big picture. Leaders need to discover and honor their own uniqueness - and do the same with their employees," says Trivedi. Many people - especially women - struggle with Impostor Syndrome. She elaborates: "I myself am affected, as are many others. When we started “The COMO Factor” podcast, this nagging voice kept intruding on my thoughts: ‘Why should anyone listen to you? Who cares?’"  She advises accepting the intrusion but also not taking it so seriously. "There are wonderful tools to help align your mindset with your strengths and positive goals: For example, just like Brianna in the novel, I use meditation and vision boards to gain clarity about my goals," she says. Organizations themselves also need to emphasize their uniqueness and their particular strengths in order to be successful in the future.

6. Survive the corporate policy

Again, staying true to one's values is healthy. "A toxic culture is non-inclusive, unethical and conflict-oriented; power and profit matter more than people. In the novel, Brianna balances the toxic culture with her solution orientation, empathy and human-centeredness," says Ms. Trivedi. For an open, healthy culture, it's necessary as a leader to encourage employees to speak their minds, she says - even if that's sometimes not so easy.

7. Set clear boundaries

"To stay healthy as a leader, it's important to define your personal boundaries," says Ms. Trivedi. This includes standing up for one's own values and opinions and courageously addressing grievances - but also setting boundaries for one's own work. "Many people struggle with work-life balance: they focus on work, and the remainder of their time is left for personal life, friends and family," she says. "It's important to communicate clearly what is non-negotiable - like picking up your kids from school at 5 p.m. every day, and you just don't sit in the office or meeting any longer," Trivedi says.

Update for Leaders

Join 15,000 + professionals and get monthly updates on leadership and management topics. Learn something new every month. 

Share this