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What happens if you don’t know the way?!

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What happens if you don’t know the way?!

For many of us leading businesses at the moment (or even as individuals, employees, parents, citizens) it’s safe to say we may not feel we know the way right now. You may, in fact, have far more questions than answers at the moment as you grapple to wrap your head around this crisis. We are all navigating uncharted territory. How may times have you read the phrase “these are unprecedented times”. And yet many of us are trying to operate with our modus operandi. Many of us may even be doing our best to project that we have it all together and know all the answers hoping that others don’t notice that we aren’t 100% sure, that we’re also anxious about the future. What would happen if they found out that we didn’t have all the answers? That we are also ‘thinking on our feet’?

This is the story for leaders of businesses and governments the world over – large and small as they wrap their head around the present and future challenges and opportunities. And yet, we don’t need more ‘top down’ approaches, but what we need is more ‘realness’, more authenticity and more transparency.

In a fascinating perspective on what is needed for leaders during this crisis. McKinsey talk about the need for authentic responses and forward-thinking mindsets. “What leaders need during a crisis is not a predefined response plan but behaviours and mindsets that will prevent them from overreacting to yesterday’s developments and help them to look ahead.”

It is this shift in mindset that will help leaders lead during these times of uncertainty. The mindset shift is from a hierarchical, top-down approach to a leader who can draw from the collective wisdom, empower others and respond quickly & mobilise around new information or market dynamics. This is not a question of shirking your responsibility or accountability as the leader or veering off course of your vision. Rather it is about shifting your own mindset and behaviour to support transparency, agility and create the right ‘network effect’ so that your business can not only survive this crisis but also thrive now and in the future.

How can we as leaders build our resilience and shift our mindset during these times of immense stress and uncertainty:

  1. Start by leading yourself. Resilience starts with self-leadership – it is about how we manage ourselves during times of stress and hardship. We have to first lead ourselves before we can effectively lead those around us. Start to observe your energy and your innate preferences. Notice what might be some of your triggers and with that awareness be mindful of your response.        

  2. Communicate with transparency and authenticity. People know when a leader isn’t sharing everything and yet there will also be realities that you might feel it is best to shield people from. Regardless of your approach, find a way to communicate transparently and authentically whenever you can.

  3. ‘Check in’ > ‘check on’. If you’re managing a team virtually find a way to pivot your 1:1s from business to personal. This is the time to show your empathy and humanise your leadership approach – perhaps you can alternate a business check-on with a personal check-in. Your leadership reputation will likely be made during this time so find a way to make it purposeful.

  4. Practice self-compassion. It is likely that we won’t be at our best during this time. And that is also OK. It is OK to not be OK. Instead of beating yourself up – practice kindness. Talk to yourself as you would a friend or a loved one. Be gentle, be kind and be compassionate to YOU.

In addition to the tips above here are some reflective questions for you to consider to step into a resilient head space:

  • When have you, your team or your business demonstrated resilience recently? What are you proud of?

  • As a leader, what are three things could you do immediately to foster an environment of resilience – where people feel they can bounce back from anything, feel secure in their capabilities, are agile and focused on innovation?

  • How could you adapt your current approach for the next month / quarter / year?

At the end of the day, people will ultimately remember your authentic, deeply human leadership during this time. Maya Angelou said it best:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


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