Hopefully, you and your staff are settling into what has become the “new normal,” at least for now. Of course, not every issue has been settled and more challenges likely lie ahead. Meanwhile, ongoing uncertainty and disruption are predictably resulting in high levels of stress and confusion among those who are depending on your leadership.
Obviously, we cannot control all of the variables and predict everything that lies ahead. The good news is that most people do not expect us to. However, they are watching closely to see several signals and behaviors in our leadership. The more of these elements they hear and see, the more they will trust and follow our lead. On the other hand, if these elements are largely missing in our leadership, we can expect more questions, greater resistance, and increased criticism.
- Clarity. Those who are depending on us to show the way forward, point attention in the right direction, and focus on what is most important want assurance that we are clear about our priorities. They want to know that regardless of what happens we will not abandon the mission of the organization, compromise key principles, or abandon long-held, shared beliefs. The greater clarity they see in us, the more confidence they will feel that our decisions will be well-grounded and driven by what matters most.
- Confidence. We may not always feel confident in the choices we have to make or our personal skills to prevail. However, those who are depending on us need to hear that we are confident that together we will succeed. We do not have to be superwoman or superman, but we can be the source of collective confidence and mutual reassurance of the power we possess when we work together.
- Commitment. Most indications are that we will be in the fight against the virus and the disruption it is has created for some time. Our persistence, grit, and unwillingness to become distracted can offer a powerful model for others to emulate. It also offers reassurance that we will do our best and not quit on them or the work to be done.
- Empathy. The challenges we face are shared throughout the organization. Of course, we are most aware of the pressure and difficulty we are experiencing. Yet, stress and challenges are a part of life for just about everyone. People need to hear and feel that we understand their experiences, appreciate their struggles, and are committed to supporting them. In truth, we can never show too much empathy.
- Vulnerability. While those around us want to trust and have confidence in our leadership, they accept that we do not have all the answers, nor should we. Our willingness to ask questions, accept advice, and listen to varying opinions communicates authenticity, not weakness. Allowing others to contribute and invest in finding solutions and solving problems creates a sense of shared commitment. It can also serve us and the organization well when the unexpected happens or we need to change course to move forward.
Not every day will be filled with clarity about priorities, feelings of confidence, or unlimited energy to feed our commitment. We may not always see the world as it is experienced by others, and we will not always be comfortable in our vulnerability. Yet, these are among the most powerful sources of leadership we can tap, especially now.