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Critical Survival Skills

Critical Survival Skills

As a business leader, your role includes navigating through difficult and uncertain times to ensure your organization’s success. However, sometimes, things don’t go as planned, and you may find yourself in a hazardous situation that requires quick thinking and decision-making. In such situations, having a survivalist mindset and the accompanying skills can make all the difference. This article discusses the need for critical survival skills for business leaders and provides some essential examples to help shift to a mindset that sees problems and challenges as opportunities of growth.

What are critical survival skills?

Critical survival skills refer to a set of abilities or components of the mindset that enable individuals to thrive in challenging and uncertain situations. These skills include adaptability, resilience, strategic thinking, communication, and leadership. Business leaders need these skills to survive and thrive in a constantly changing environment, where disruptive technologies, global competition, and economic uncertainty can pose significant threats to their organization’s success. Not everyone is born with the mindset to plow through tough times but everyone can learn the skills and mindset changes needed to maneuver through critical moments in business.

Why do business leaders need critical survival skills?

In today’s fast-paced and volatile business world, leaders must be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, make informed decisions, and communicate effectively with stakeholders. They must be resilient in the face of challenges and setbacks, stay focused on the organization’s goals, and lead their TEAMs through difficult times. Critical survival skills help leaders achieve these objectives and ensure their organization’s survival and success. Most importantly, leaders need to work on or acquire this mindset and accompanying skills from the start.

Topical examples of critical survival skills for business leaders include:

1. Adaptability

Adaptability is the ability to adjust to new situations quickly and effectively. In today’s business world, where disruptive technologies and changing market conditions can transform industries overnight, adaptability is a critical survival skill for business leaders. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies had to shift their operations online to survive.

Business leaders who were adaptable and willing to embrace new technologies and business models were better equipped to navigate these changes successfully. A mindset focused on traditional practices and the safe and familiar does not serve leaders during business catastrophes or extreme challenges. Adaptability should be ingrained in the organization’s mission and vision, as well as in the culture. This includes transparent expectations from day one, with each employee understanding their roles and responsibilities and how they shall align with the business’s mission, vision, and values.

Adaptability also begins with a forward-thinking mindset. Leaders who anticipated a situation where work would be fully remote were able to integrate work-from-home policies and supply bottlenecks and solutions to them. They didn’t miss a beat (or revenue) and continued to move forward with their business operations. Conversely, companies that didn’t have a future predictive model in place or a contingency plan took longer to adapt.

2. Resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and recover quickly from difficult situations. Business leaders who are resilient can stay focused on their organization’s goals and maintain their TEAMs’ morale in the face of challenges. For example, during the 2008 financial crisis, many businesses struggled to survive, and some had to lay off employees. Business leaders who were resilient and willing to make tough decisions were better able to weather the storm and emerge stronger on the other side.

Starbucks was one such business that was saved during the 2008 recession by its forward-thinking CEO Howard D. Schultz. Instead of focusing on saving costs and waiting out the tough times, Howard focused on the customer. In fact, his main focus, as evidenced in the letter he sent to employees when he took charge, was reigniting customer attachment to Starbucks. Unlike previous company leaders, Schultz refused to accept that the economy and the high cost of dairy were the reason for the slump in business.

Instead, he redirected the blame on a wasteful bureaucracy that followed Starbuck’s rapid expansion. One of his more inventive contributions to getting Starbucks back on track was involving employees and the larger community in the strategic decisions for the business. Through the ‘My Starbucks Idea’ initiative, company leaders were able to build a free repository of ideas for product offerings, store layouts and even advertising and music in stores. Of this, over 100 ideas were implemented. Schultz also focused on a technology-oriented strategy with the Starbucks mobile app that offered a personalized coffee experience to Starbucks customers.

Ultimately, Starbucks’ leader’s critical survival mindset focused on revamping as the route to prosperity. This mindset helped differentiate Starbucks from the scores of other cafes in the US and globally and especially survive competition from Mcdonald’s.

3. Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking is the ability to think critically and make informed decisions based on a long-term vision for the organization. Business leaders who think strategically can anticipate market trends, identify growth opportunities, and make informed decisions that drive the organization’s success. For example, when Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs had a long-term vision for the device’s potential and was able to make strategic decisions that transformed the mobile phone industry. Many of Steve Jobs ideas revolved around the idea of Apple products being something more than functional. His love of design was the impetus for differentiating Apple’s products from the many competitors that came before it. His unique design signature and focus on design-led innovation also meant that Apple managed to survive economically competitive periods in its history while maintaining the loyalty of its core customer base.

4. Communication

Communication is the ability to convey information effectively to stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, and the media. Business leaders who communicate clearly and persuasively can build trust and inspire confidence in their organization’s mission and values. For example, during the BP oil spill in 2010, BP CEO Tony Hayward’s poor communication skills and lack of empathy for the affected communities damaged the company’s reputation. This in turn led to a public relations disaster that is still talked about to this date.

5. Leadership

Leadership is the ability to inspire and motivate others to achieve a common goal. Business leaders who lead effectively can build high-performing TEAMs, foster a positive organizational culture, and drive innovation and growth. For example, Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, is widely regarded as a visionary leader who has transformed the retail industry through innovation and customer focus.


In conclusion, critical survival skills are essential for business leaders who want to thrive in today’s fast-paced and uncertain business environment. These skills include adaptability, resilience, strategic thinking, communication, and leadership. Having a critical survival mindset necessitates exercising these skills alone and in tandem to prepare the business for rougher terrain and uncertain economic climates.

Prime Hiring Solutions can help your organization create sustainable business survival strategies that facilitate a proactive means of moving forward. We work with your leadership TEAM to build strategies that include diversification, staff retention and training, contingency planning, cash flow optimization, and increasing revenue that are all aligned with shifting the mindset of your staff to one that is constantly aware of new threats and able to act on such confidently.

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