Austerity leadership qualities planting

Austerity Leadership Qualities

What are the austerity leadership qualities that will help us to weather the recession? No doubt the list could be a long one, here we’ll focus on the importance of getting the balance right. Leadership has always been a balancing act, but perhaps more than ever getting the balance right matters during austerity, for example do you:

  • plan for growth or prepare for recession
  • invest in new ideas or cut products or services

Austerity Leadership QualitiesTo help explore these dilemas we’ll consider austerity leadership qualities associated with balancing maintenance with mission.

  • Maintenance is about ensuring that what you currently do is done well
  • Mission is about the future and direction – finding the new, extending and growing.

Austerity Leadership Qualities – 5 P’s


The austerity leadership qualities of pruning and protecting are maintenance activities.

  • Pruning means cutting back when things grow out of proportion or things are added to what you do without thought of the complexity or effectiveness. Pruning is an activity that should be done periodically, but in a recession it can be particularly helpful to think about where activities need to be cut back. This is not the same as making cuts across the board, which is a frequent course of action. Across-the-board cuts are indiscrimate and hit parts of the business which need support and could be key to helping an organisation grow out of a recession. Pruning is targetted and focuses on areas wher unnessary complexity or reduced effectiveness is apparent.
  • Protecting is about keeping a close eye on your processes that they do what they are supposed to do. Spotting problems early and protecting the people and processes you manage from their impact. In a recession concentrate on your key value adding processes, the parts of the business that really make a difference for your customers.

Transitioning from maintenance to mission

  • Preserving represents a transition between maintenance and mission. Preserving is about keeping the essence of what makes you distinctive, you need to preserve this in the current way you work, and you need to preserve it in any changes you plan to make. It is easy to lose what makes you distinctive as an organisation. Cuts to staffing levels, re-organisations and re-structures all carry the very real risk of losing or damaging the engagement of staff and the culture of the organisation. In times of change leaders need to work hard at preserving the distinctiveness of the organisation.

The austerity leadership qualities of planting and pioneering are about mission. There can be a tendency to spend much more time in a recession focusing on maintenance activities. However, to challenge asuterity leaders need to balance the necessary focus on maintenance with mission. Mission can be seem as a luxury during a recession, yet really it is one of the key to challenging austerity.

  • Planting is the most familiar kind of change and improvement. It is about building and expanding on what you currently do to offer new services/products. Planting is about growing based on your strengths, building your capability.
  • Pioneering is a more radical view of the future. It is about finding new opportunities that could take the organisation in new directions. There are always opportunities in difficult circumstances. One area to think about more speciifcally in recession is how your business saves your customers money or makes them money.

Think through your response to austerity:

  • Review your service or processes in the context of the 5P’s.
  • Then think about how you might plan to build the 5P’s in to the activities in the coming year or next period.
  • Both maintenance and mission are crucial austerity leadership qualities, but have you got the balance right?
  • There is tendency to focus on maintenance activities during a recession, so deliberately spend more time thinking about the mission activities.

Join the conversation about antidotes to austerity. What leadership qualities would you put top of your list?

To find out more about challenging austerity see our new workshops designed to help organisations find antidotes to austerity.

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