rayos by brujo

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?

Andy Stanley communicates brilliantly on this topic, and I’d like to flesh out three thoughts of his on this theme.

Be clear

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.

Stay flexible

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?


4 thoughts on “Thriving in storms

  1. Hey Chris! I think your point about anxiety causing stress and suspicion in a team is really good. It’s really challenging to be clear about your uncertainty, and yet remain confident – and pass that confidence on to the rest of the group. I guess teams are aware that leaders can’t know everything, but expect their leaders to be honest about it, and also have some ideas of how to proceed?

    • Yes, that’s so true. Andy Stanley says that even if you just let your people know that you know what they’re feeling and thinking, they receive an incredible assurance from you. In times of crisis people want leaders who are full of faith but also honest, and they also want leaders who show understanding for where their people are at and are concerned about getting all of them through to the other side together.

  2. The company I work at has high anxiety. There is a lot of institutional change going on for both us as a corporation and for the industry we work in.

    I’ve found it useful to tackle the rumors head on and give accurate assessments of rumors versus reality. I can’t always share everything I know due to confidentiality, but I can make it clear that change is going to be constant and our teams need to continue to be high performers so that we will be seen as valuable regardless of what changes may come.

    That is something I have tried to encourage in my peers as well. Oddly, some of my peers actually embrace the uncertainty as a natural state of being. These same directors then wonder why the morale is so low on their teams.

    • Thanks for the feedback Rob! That’s very helpful. I think in times of change, communication seems to the crux issue. If you communicate well and wisely, your team can really prosper in uncertainty, but if you communicate badly, the wheels really can fall off. This is definitely something that I’m starting to pay more attention to.

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