“You cannot overtake 15 cars in sunny weather, but you can when it’s raining”. A quote from the late Ayrton Senna that was mentioned in a fascinating McKinsey article How ambidextrous leaders manage through volatile times | McKinsey.

The article went on to describe that despite all of the rain out there, from the war in Ukraine, increased costs of living, increasing inflation and hybrid work challenges, to name just a few…there are two leadership mindsets to consider. The cautious leaders who cut back and hide in their offices (or at home) and wait for better weather? Or those that go on the offensive and look for opportunities, show a positive mindset and inspire their teams to get ahead of the pack?

And it’s not just the external factors, you’ve got the “great resignation”, “the great reset” and other internal challenges…and that’s before you start to have time to think about your own personal anxieties!

So how do you lead through such uncertain times? Well it starts with you…You decide what mindset you will have: You decide what you can and can’t control; You decide what to prioritise; You decide to look after your own wellbeing, stay fit and balanced; You decide how you want to communicate; You decide how you will lead…

It’s like the oxygen mask routine on the plane – you’re told to put on your own mask before helping others, seems wrong but makes sense. It’s the same with empathetic leadership during challenging times, you need to be in a good place yourself before you can help and inspire others.

So how do you get into that “good place”? Here’s some tips from my leadership network;

  • Celebrate the wins, be thankful for what’s working.
  • Write stuff down, don’t underestimate the importance of journaling.
  • Avoid the triggers, eg stop watching the news if it’s bringing you down, avoid the pessimistic work colleagues.
  • Have some positive experiences, things you enjoy doing, that will manage your stress levels.
  • Learn to embrace the uncertainty…this takes time and effort but it’s all about accepting that when you’re anxious, nervous or worried it’s about seeing that as information that will make you more creative and innovative.

And the best way to lead through uncertainty? Aside from adopting that positive mindset, leading from the front and having an open (and creative) mind to the opportunities you need to overcommunicate, overcommunicate and overcommunicate.

  • Be open and honest, your team aren’t stupid, they know something is going on!
  • You don’t have to have all the answers, no-one expects that, but you are expected to tell people what you’re doing about it.
  • Don’t forget to ask your teams for help, you’ll be surprised how much they want to help and the ideas they might come up with.
  • Test your messaging beforehand with a trusted confidante and check-in afterwards to make sure the right message landed.
  • Agree how you will communicate moving forwards, are you going to offer an open door policy or town hall updates.

And the final tip is to get advice…ideally from an external sounding board, someone with no skin in the game but dedicated to helping you make the right decisions as a leader.

Remember it’s easy to lead when things are going well, REAL leadership occurs when times are tough!

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