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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' new Leadership Lab series, where executives and leadership experts share their views and advice about the leadership and management issues of today. There will be a new column every weekday. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Hundreds of Toronto's municipal workers are going to work each day and experiencing a leadership crisis. Tensions between Rob Ford and his team are continuing to grow dramatically to a point where he's being stripped of his powers.

But, can a leader lead without followers? The answer is an emphatic "No." Leaders don't and can't work in a vacuum. They need a team to accomplish their goals and help them to execute on key responsibilities. Without followers, a leader is just a person with a vision and not much else.

If ever we have seen a leadership crisis, this is it. As leadership guru John Maxwell notes: "Everything rises and falls on leadership." Leaders create the culture of an organization. They set the tone. And they lead by example. They have very strong values and demonstrate these values in everything they do.

If a leader is demonstrating unethical behaviour, he is outwardly disrespecting his employees who are guided by an ethical moral compass. He is also creating a culture of mistrust, sending the message to employees that lying, cheating, double-talk and half-truths are acceptable in our place of work.

Despite this leadership crisis, thousands of municipal employees and city councillors need to go to work each day. So how do you stay motivated under these extreme circumstances? By implementing the following three strategies, work can still be a positive experience even during leadership turmoil.

1. Focus on the big picture

Remember that no situation is permanent. Although there is a lot of uncertainly right now, things will settle down eventually. Keep focused on the city's vision of providing excellent service and remember that you play an important role in supporting the great people of Toronto.

2. Set clear goals and develop an action plan.

Stay focused on the job that you are paid to do. Set a few key goals that you need to accomplish each day and develop a plan to achieve them.

3. Stay positive.

At the end of the day your career depends on your good name. Don't burn any bridges during this time of uncertainty. Rather, maintain a positive attitude and don't get too caught up in the rumour mill. Be the kind of person that people can trust and turn to especially during tumultuous times.

So, what lessons can we learn from learn from Rob Ford's mistakes as a leader? Although the list is endless, the key lesson is around the importance of trust. Stephen M.R. Covey explains it well in his book The Speed of Trust. He says that if trust is removed it will "destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leader, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love."

Once lost, can a leader regain the trust of his or her team? It's possible, yet in most cases it can be an uphill battle. Rebuilding trust means that a leader must consistently, and over time, demonstrate both excellent business results and behave in a way that is respectful and ethical.

In the case of Rob Ford, there may be too many lies, distorted facts and hurt feelings for his leadership to survive.

Vanessa Judelman is the president of Mosaic People Development (@MosaicPD), a leadership and executive development firm.