"Does the situation make the leader or the leader make the situation?" Great leaders like Lincoln or Roosevelt didn't come out of nowhere. Crises, challenges and adversities shaped these individuals, creating moments of transformation and success. And, they weren't the only ones.
Leaders face challenges frequently, and being able to overcome them is the key to success, especially when they are difficult to predict early enough. However, there are ways to improve your leadership skills in times of uncertainty. In this article, we'll write 5 different strategies that have helped other people lead their teams successfully through tough times.
Why is leadership in times of uncertainty important?
Whenever a company goes through a difficult phase, it is important that the leader imposes himself and guides his team members. In these moments, the figure of the leader is fundamental. In times of uncertainty, there are many pieces that require coordination to ensure your company's success. It is the leader's role to structure the chaos and continuously reinforce the medium and long term vision.
Without inspiring leadership, moments of uncertainty can spell the end for many organizations. The leader is expected to maintain motivation and productivity, transmitting security in decisions. If you can help your employees navigate this uncertainty together, they will feel more comfortable with their own uncertain futures.
A leader is the figure the team will look to for answers and guidance, and that team will have different needs in the face of the unexpected.
What are the skills needed to lead in times of uncertainty? How can you improve them?
1. Facing uncertainty with an understanding of what is going on around you
Recognize the problem you are facing. Look around you and see what's happening. How are people feeling? What is working well for them and what needs to be adapted? Really try to understand what opportunities you can grow in and work to improve them.
You also need to pay more attention to looking beyond what is directly accessible in our environment, into the behaviors and beliefs of individuals, who does your team need now? From a leader ready for war? Or a leader who allays fears? It should also look at our social institutions, industry and technology. Trying to understand what is happening around us on a deeper level.
Finally, you need to reflect on your own perception patterns. Perceptions that are not managed correctly turn into rumours, which is destructive to an organization's environment, as a rumor often ends up becoming an unintended truth. Therefore, as a leader, if you want to successfully communicate, influence or lead people, you must understand how you are perceived in order to change perception. If people don't distinguish you as the leader, they won't treat you as such and won't follow you. If you don't follow him, you won't be an effective leader.
These are the tools that lead to a higher degree of knowledge. This knowledge will, in most situations, lessen ambiguity and worry. It will introduce new ways of dealing with times of uncertainty, presenting alternative points of view.
2. Be empathetic
Showing empathy for your team in times of uncertainty will help you come together as a team and feel able to get through this difficult period together. Empathy allows them to relate on a personal level, demonstrating that they care about each other as people. As a result, it can significantly improve trust and unity.
And how can you show empathy?
- Be curious about the unknown and talk to others.
- Try putting yourself in someone else's shoes. It is easy to judge, however, we must imagine the problem to see what others experience in order to understand their situation and behaviors.
- Acknowledge the person's feelings and acknowledge their importance.
- Also, asking questions to open a communication can encourage the other person to share more, especially if the questions you ask are meaningful.
What would you do if your employee was too overwhelmed with their tasks and had to work another day but couldn't help? How an empathetic person would feel bad and maybe if she joined him for coffee and gave him a few words of encouragement.
3. Overcome Uncertainty with Clarity About Where to Go
Communicate with your team, clearly, to overcome the problem of confusion and chaos. Make sure everyone knows what the vision of the future is and that they are working together towards the same goals and strategy. It is important to make this communication before starting a project, so that everyone is on the same page.
The leader must also deliver a message of hope, without distorting chaotic reality, thereby opening the mind to opportunities that would otherwise be ignored.
Companies like Kodak and Blackberry suffered as the uncertainty of changing times overrode the clarity and vision of the future that leaders would have to convey. General Motors, by contrast, embraced the winds of change, and undertook the necessary research to realize a vision of the future—vehicle shifting and shifting to electric or autonomous vehicles. That vision helped move a company that declared bankruptcy in 2009 to a company declared number 1 in the automotive industry for the fourth consecutive year.
4. Invest in your adaptability skills
The coronavirus pandemic presented all of us with new challenges, new circumstances and new uncertainties. It showed us that change can come unexpectedly and at any time and as such, leaders need to be flexible to succeed. To become more flexible, start by trying new things in your free time, change your environment and visit different places in your daily activities. In addition, you can also change your routines occasionally, which will make you feel more flexible.
But it is not just the leader who must embody a spirit of adaptability. Your entire team must be willing to expand beyond what their original role might require. Show them that to be truly innovative and ahead of trends, they must embrace change. Uncertain times often require individuals to take on multiple tasks. Reward people who are adapting well and support those who have problems right now.
Imagine you lead a project. It is expected that in the middle of it there will be a meeting to discuss progress and what needs to be changed. While planning for changes and adjustments is an important step towards adaptability, the real test for the leader is executing the changes, in real time. If step 3 of the project doesn't work, don't wait for the meeting to encourage change, or to try something new. Do it in the moment. A leader who employs adaptability knows that results are achieved when the answer to the unheard is not to wait, but to adjust.
5. Be Self-Aware
Self-awareness means knowing your emotions, your personal strengths and weaknesses and having a strong sense of your own worth. This quality enables us to deal with the crisis that seems overwhelming and to turn it into a challenge that we can face on our own terms. Self-aware leaders are able to control themselves and the situation at hand. They consciously manage their emotions and also build employees' trust. This is why self-awareness is an important practice to develop.
One way to increase your self-awareness is to write down your major plans and priorities and track your progress. Also, you can chat with your good friends to get a better view of how you relate to others. You can also regularly ask for feedback. This will allow you to better understand your own strengths and weaknesses.
Imagine the following situation: Someone on your team performs a task they've never done before. As such, you are not familiar with all the nuances of what they do. How would you act? If you are self-aware, you will recognize your knowledge gap. You will spend time with the team to learn from them and ask questions when you don't understand something. With them, he draws up a plan for the work with which he is less familiar, so that he can monitor his performance and have a relationship of trust.
Embracing the need to learn new skills and admitting when you don't know is a constructive mindset that is worth demonstrating.
Leading is leading people to the future even when it is uncertain. It is part of the leader's role, to present himself as a ship's captain, who faces the unknown with courage and tenacity, and is always aware of danger, but also of success, even when it is hidden behind the most difficult moments.
The 5 tips we've shared today should help you develop leadership skills for the future that will serve you well, no matter what happens next. What competence will you focus on developing?