The Silver Lining: Thoughts on Leadership in Uncertain Times

“These are uncertain times.” This is a catchphrase we’re all hearing and saying a lot in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused unprecedented, personal and professional devastation on a global scale. What else is there to say? The surreal events, cost of human life, and economic shutdown has left the most eloquent speechless and paralyzed. How do we proceed in our personal lives and in our places of employment (or lack thereof) in this time? Even further, if we find ourselves in a place of leadership, how do we lead our people, our organizations, and businesses when we quite literally don’t know what tomorrow will bring?

Patrick Lencioni, organizational health expert and prolific author, offers invaluable counsel in the Chief Executive article, “Patrick Lencioni: 3 Thoughts for Leaders In a Perilous Time” of how to proceed as a leader in such a time as this:

Thought #1. Be exceedingly human. Show compassion and care in light of all the turbulence and challenges people are facing and the emotions they are experiencing. Lencioni emphasizes that this concern needs to extend beyond the professional sphere, actively listening and empathizing with fears on a personal level. Even more critical, he claims, is to show vulnerability as a leader and to admit that we don’t have all the answers. We need to be relatable and available particularly in tumultuous times!

Thought #2 Be persistent. This is the time for over-communication! Especially as most organizations have transitioned to working remotely, the need for clear and persistent communication is even more critical. One reason is to offset the negative impact that isolation can have on people as social beings. The other reason is that without face-to-face interactions the risk for miscommunication skyrockets. See more about the challenges of leading virtual teams with some helpful tips in Lencioni’s article, “Virtual Teams are Worse Than I Thought.” (Yes, the title is a bit dim, but the content is very constructive!)

Thought #3 Be creative. Creativity is a gift that even social isolation can’t take away from us. As leaders, we need to leverage technology to creatively connect, motivate and empower our people. Lencioni gives examples like semi-regular video conference meetings where employees can share experiences of how they are dealing with their current situations. Another a helpful idea is to encourage people to share movies and games they are playing with their children while stuck at home.

Yes, these are uncertain times. Let’s be leaders that seize the opportunity before us to be exceedingly human, persistent and creative with our people. Maybe in the looming clouds of uncertainty upon us, we will indeed find that silver lining that will have a lasting, transformative impact on our leadership, our people and the organizations we have the privilege to lead.

About the Author
Jessica Vuk is a consultant with Morrison, working primarily in our Grants practice. To get in touch with Jessica, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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