10 Things Leaders Can Do in Times of UncertaintySep 22, 2023
When things are changing and evolving rapidly, it is especially important for leaders to be centered and flexible. Whenever people are operating outside their comfort zone, it can be stressful, and especially critical to lead the way through, demonstrating strength and confidence. It’s a good time to remind yourself that you are a resourceful, resilient, creative survivor, and set the tone for the rest of the team.
So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? Here are my top ten tips for leading effectively during times of uncertainty:
- Acknowledge how you are feeling, and how others may be feeling. Are you experiencing fear, anxiety, anger or uncertainty about what to do? Maybe it’s a mis of fear and excitement. Just naming the situation can help and sharing that with others will allow them to express their fears and concerns. Knowing is better than not knowing, because you can deal with what you know.
- Recognize the power of choice. No matter what happens, you have a choice in how to respond. What attitude and what behavior do you want to convey to others? What words and actions will demonstrate that?
- Take 100% responsibility for your actions, your attitude, your results, and your leadership. This is the #1 Principle of Success, and when in doubt, I find it’s helpful to determine how I can take just a bit more responsibility for the situation. What would happen if you took just 5% more responsibility?
- Practice more humanity. In a world of volatility and uncertainty, it is more important than ever to treat people as people first. Be patient, empathetic, and compassionate. Everyone is going through something in their life, and you may not have any idea what their challenges are. Whenever possible, err on the side of humanity.
- Build your resilience. Create new habits, if necessary, but make self-care a priority. Giving yourself permission gives others permission as well, and stressed-out, exhausted, burnt-out people cannot contribute at the highest levels of performance. This means getting enough sleep, hydration, exercise, and nutrition, and taking time out for breaks. (If you need help with building resilience, let’s talk – I have a top ten list for that too).
- Set a positive intention. Begin with the end in mind – what is the outcome you are looking for? Be optimistic. What can you learn, and how can you grow? Every challenge brings opportunity for growth, so set your mind on the benefits and the possible improvements to yourself, your team, and your organization.
- Communicate more than you think. It is surprising how quickly the absence of information turns into a rampant rumor mill, filled with misinformation. Even if you don’t have all the answers, let people know that. Make a commitment to share information as it’s available. Become the trusted resource.
- Express gratitude and appreciation more often than you think. Gratitude energizes people, elevates moods, lowers stress, and improves performance. After all, according to William James, “the most fundamental principle governing human behavior is our desire to be appreciated.” And plenty of research supports that most people do not feel appreciated enough. What are you doing to express your appreciation?
- Keep your sense of humor. Find a reason to laugh every day, even if it’s watching sill cat videos. Every survival kit should contain sense of humor. Mark Twain called it “mankind’s greatest blessing,” and Robin Williams told us that “comedy is acting out optimism.” (See #6).
- Be Deliberate. I often write and speak about Deliberate LeadershipÔ, which is intentional, thoughtful leadership. Decide ahead of time who you plan to be, how you plan to show up, and what you will represent to others. Times of volatility, uncertainty, change, and ambiguity are times to show up as your best self.
The leader always sets the tone, whether or not it’s intentional. And in times of rapid change, someone is looking to you for leadership. As John Maxwell said, “I guarantee there is somebody in your life who could use your help and who would be forever grateful.” I couldn’t agree more.
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