Back to articles

Leading in Times of Uncertainty

In periods of uncertainty such as the world is facing right now, leaders must demonstrate resilience and compassion above all else. In an environment of imperfect and rapidly changing information and forecasts, decisive action is incredibly difficult but is more essential than ever.

Given the negative outlook, decisions will inevitably impact some individuals more dramatically than others and so empathy must also be shown in abundance. This is the sharp end of leadership and for many, the toughest chapter they will ever face. The impact of leadership response in times such as these will be amplified; making it even harder to act in such a changing and almost universally pessimistic landscape.

Firstly, leaders must engage. Engage with their teams, engage with their clients and, very importantly engage with themselves. Gather information and opinion with as heightened a sense of curiosity as possible, but accept you will not find the answer or unanimity in terms of the broader outlook and specific courses of actions. Then take time to think and think deeply. These decisions are as big as they are going to get so step back from the whirlwind and really reflect. Work through the scenarios, have flexibility of thought and stretch the mind as much as possible before landing on the chose direction. Now prepare the action plan and commit, evaluating strategy frequently by continually framing the situation and considering internal and external developments.

Active communication with internal and external stakeholders is also crucial. Proactively sharing information with employees before they air concerns should remain a priority list during uncertainty, even where you can’t provide the answers at that time. Communicate openly and frequently, even if the decisions being made may be difficult, being upfront and honest regarding potential changes can build trust and pave the way for any tough directive which may lie ahead. Messages shared should not mislead, however executives must also look towards building the future and acknowledge what the operating landscape may look like during recovery.

Transparent communication with clients and suppliers is also vital; to assume business as usual from both sides is careless and a lack of appreciation of the challenges of others could damage relationships beyond the event. Everyone should be ready to collaborate and navigate their way through a crisis together.

Leadership style over the past decade has been shaped by change; companies who have embraced this by evolving their management practices away from a command and control model to a growth mindset are better equipped to cope with situations of uncertainty by supporting their workforce to weather disruptions by learning and innovation.

With the world currently facing a particularly tumultuous time, the strength and resilience of every organization will be truly tested in the coming days, weeks and months. How leaders think and act right now will have a profound impact on our economic and societal future.

Listen, Think, Act.

April 1, 2020