You can strengthen your leadership for uncertain times.
How do you handle uncertainty and ambiguity? Maybe you have never given it any thought. However, the global spread of a virus and an economic meltdown will test the grit of everyone.
We are amid instability on steroids! Such conditions try even the most seasoned leaders.
Take a few steps now to conquer your current challenges. And in the process of stepping up, you will develop deeper leadership capabilities that will last long beyond the current crises.
Here are four thoughts for leading in these challenging times:
Don’t Become Paralyzed by Uncertainty
Acting in the face of uncertainty is easier said than done. Nevertheless, leadership requires courage.
No one knows what is coming over the next few weeks or months. And for many, the loss of control that accompanies uncertainty is hard to accept. Yet bear it we must.
For many leaders, decision-making difficulties increase as the unknowns multiply. Yet, you cannot afford to stand still in the face of ambiguity. You must be willing to act even without what you consider to be complete information.
Gather the best data available to you and move forward. Give up the belief that a perfect solution will come to you if you wait long enough. When the world is unstable, flawless answers do not exist.
Will you make some mistakes? Yes, yet risk-taking is a necessary part of leadership. Avoidance is likely to lead to more failures in the long run.
In the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero, “More is lost by indecision than wrong decision. Indecision is the thief of opportunity. It will steal you blind.”
Find Some Stability in the Chaos
While at times, you may feel like your entire world is shaky, search for something stable in the middle of the mess.
For example, while your work and personal circumstances may shift mercilessly, your company’s purpose and values will remain unchanged, when authentic.
Turn to these anchors to find steady footing in the turbulence. Unchanging corporate integrity should serve as the framework for decisions and actions all of the time, and especially during periods of uncertainty.
While you may not have as much data as you crave for making decisions in this unstable environment, your values can be your decision-making bedrock.
Columbia University professor, Paul Ingram, has studied the role of values in business organizations for many years. He argues that values can serve as our internal control system. When we face a crisis, we don’t have time to explore all options in-depth. However, our core values can guide us towards clear decisions.
Values-driven entrepreneur, Scott Koloms says that challenges make leadership worthwhile. Nevertheless, uncertain times create stress for many of us. “The thing that settles me the most is when I’m able to remember the vision and values. And then to know that as long as we’re living them, we will be okay.”
Learn to Live with Ambiguity
Life is ambiguous. Crises merely magnify and intensify the uncertainties. Tim O’Brien, best-selling author of The Things They Carried, and Dad’s Maybe Book, says we all have to get comfortable living with maybe.
When he was fighting in the Viet Nam War, every step was a mystery because he never knew how close he was to a landmine. He argues all of life is like that. We live with “maybe” every day.
Effective leaders accept the vagaries of life and work and carry on courageously.
Accept Life’s Paradoxes
Wise leaders understand that every situation holds positives and negatives, threats, and opportunities. As you embrace these contradictions, you will become more resilient.
Ask yourself what you and your company might learn from the current crises. Can you create new products and services that address our present circumstances? Can you innovate the way you design and deliver your products and services?
Finally, remember the English proverb, “necessity is the mother of invention.” When faced with difficult situations, we are more likely to create innovative solutions, if we can learn to live with uncertainty, find a stable footing in the middle of the chaos, and accept life’s paradoxes.
So why are you waiting? The times require courage. Accept the unknowns and act anyway. With values as your framework, make decisions based on the information you have at hand.
Acknowledge that you may make mistakes. Learn from them and move on. And believe with confidence that the current circumstances will change. After all, our world is always in flux.
Through mental discipline and transparency, arm yourself to accept life’s insecurities, and you will become a more resilient and more influential leader.
And, by the way, commit to transparency with your stakeholders, especially your employees. Share what you are thinking. Explain how you are relying on personal and company values as your framework for decision-making. I will tackle the topic of how to engage your employees in this process in a future article.