Leading Through Uncertainty: 3 Ways to Deal with Ambiguity

As restrictions are loosened, most countries experience a second wave of COVID-19. Business leaders face unprecedented challenges as they navigate uncharted waters in this environment of uncertainty and ambiguity. Organisations around the world take swift action to prepare themselves for yet another looming financial fallout.

This goes to show that businesses may not return to normal for quite some time, if at all. Leaders thus shouldn’t view the coronavirus as a single event but rather a recurring disruption to which they will need to quickly and continually adapt.

In this post COVID-19 situation, leaders that break long-held paradigms and recognise and embrace ambiguity as a constant will be able to thrive. Here are top three tips for leaders to consider:

1. Work On Flexibility

Research shows that leaders who rise above pessimism, invite and acknowledge feedback and embrace the uncertainty are more likely to be viewed by others as forerunners in surviving and thriving in these uncertain times.

Great leaders revise their plans and incorporate new ideas to overcome challenges and achieve their goals. Using their quality of being adaptable, they implement new behaviors into old, existing situations. Thus, they allow more room for creativity in their work and find new ways to solve problems.

As a leader, you should be willing to correct your course as insights emerge. Focus on what is known. Provide clarity and direction for your team and be honest when you don’t have the answers. Stay open to possibilities and opportunities and prepare for different potential outcomes.

2. Don’t Try to Minimize Risks

Most leaders tend to think and behave in ways that feel unfamiliar when faced with a crisis. They aim to ease their team’s fears by conveying a fairytale version of reality. However, that always backfires. Effective leadership entails that one stays true to who they are. Your employees are smart people. Downplaying the risks you’re facing won’t do any good as your team can easily read right through any sugarcoating of the situation.

In a Harvard Business Review study, 195 global leaders were asked to choose what according to them were the most important competencies of leadership. The study revealed that the top two were having ‘high ethical and moral standards’, and ‘communicating clear expectations’, both of which combine to show that the best leadership traits are ones that ensure a safe and honest working environment.

So instead of minimizing risks, assign each member specific actions they can take to bring the whole team closer to that goal. Not only will this give everyone a sense of control over the situation but also a sense of optimism about the future that keeps morale high.

3. Lead from the Heart, Not Just the Head

Even when the world encounters a crisis, great leaders remain grounded in internal values such as compassion, integrity, optimism, courage and purpose. They know that it’s important to lead with positivity and show their team how to handle ambiguity, as a reassured and calm team is likely to make smarter decisions.

People shouldn’t be made to feel like they are just numbers on a spreadsheet. Great leaders, therefore, build a strong emotional connection with their employees by leading from the heart, not just their head. They prioritise their employees’ personal wellbeing over commercial profits as well as ensure that all team members feel a sense of belonging.

So go out of your way to let your team know you care. Add a personal touch to your emails and messages when necessary. Your employees will perform better when they know you’re in the trenches with them and that you’ve got their back.

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Author: Paul Keijzer

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