Nowadays, we live in permanent uncertainty. This ain’t our parents’ generation, where everyone had stable jobs with stable incomes. The sands of culture today shift so quickly that companies, organisations and churches need to be continuously adapting to stay on top. Things can get messy really quickly … so how do you lead well in uncertain times?
This is definitely counter-intuitive. “How can you be clear when things are uncertain?” You can. And you must. Clarity does not need certainty. In other words, you don’t have to be certain about details in order to be clear about direction.
Great leaders aren’t freaked out by uncertainty – they remain on course with a clear vision. Even if you don’t know exactly how you’re going to get there, you need to crystal clear about where you’re headed.
You have to stay flexible in uncertain times. When there’s upheaval and things go haywire, our instinctive reaction is to go back to what we know has worked in the past and do it with more intensity. But you have to be open to new things, to change, because what’s worked before may not work for you again in uncertain and changing times. So don’t retreat into the security of doing the same old thing. Be flexible and open to listen, open to change.
Be painfully transparent
Uncertainty breeds anxiety. And anxiety breeds suspicion. When people are anxious and don’t know what’s going to happen to them, they can easily get suspicious of their leaders. Things can get really ugly when you consider that, as leaders, when we are uncertain about the future, we often tend to draw back and say nothing, waiting until we get a clearer picture of what’s going on so that we will have something to say.
So our inclination to communicate less in times of uncertainty will only exasperate a climate of anxiety and suspicion. Instead of drawing back, leaders need to step forward and be very honest and clear about everything they know and everything they don’t know. Even if you have nothing to say yet about how to proceed forward, get out there and reassure your people that you’re working on it and will let them know as soon as you know.
What’s your experience of leading through times of uncertainty? What advice can you share?