3 habits adaptable leaders use to lead through uncertainty

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3 habits adaptable leaders use to lead through uncertainty

Periods of ambiguity can be stressful for your employees. And as colleges and universities face increased scrutiny and financial uncertainty, strong academic leadership is more critical than ever.

Writing for Harvard Business Review, leadership coach Lisa Lei suggests three tactics that managers can use to navigate their team through uncertainty:

1: Do something… anything

Taking action in support of your school’s goals will make your team feel better than doing nothing, writes Lei. She recommends focusing on what you can control: “What clientele does your team serve today and what do they expect or need from you? What matters to the organization’s mission or vision? How can your team contribute to that?”

Next, leaders can look at the facts and infer what is likely to happen. “In almost every case, managers can place intelligent bets and start to work toward a future state—even when the complete landscape remains out of focus,” writes Lei.

Still, leaders don’t need to wait for the “final answer on strategy” before acting, suggests Lei. Instead, leaders can enact short-term strategies. To do this, she recommends asking and answering questions such as “What projects can your team execute in 30, 60, or 90 days that will benefit the organization regardless of which direction the strategy takes?”

“What matters to the organization’s mission or vision? How can your team contribute to that?”

Lisa Lei, Leadership Coach

2: Create a sense of emotional safety

Periods of ambiguity can be unsettling and weigh emotionally on your team, writes Lei. So in addition to moving forward with a course of action, spend time learning as much as you can about the situation, she recommends. Stay informed and use your network to gain insight, context, and clarity so that you can answer questions from your team about the potential repercussions of the situation. This is especially important because open and honest communication during periods of uncertainty can help your team manage their stress and emotions.

Staying informed can also help you create your own sense of emotional steadiness. After all, your role as a leader is to be “calm, transparent, and steady, all while painting a vision for the future,” writes Lei.

3: Learn from others

Serving as a reliable source of support can be isolating for leaders, Lei acknowledges. But remember that other leaders in your network have had similar experiences, she adds. Lei recommends seeking support or asking for advice from peers, or even turning to books, podcasts, or videos to find inspiration.

Similarly, it can be helpful to imagine how someone you respect would handle your current situation. “This exercise can be incredibly powerful in helping you stay calm and emotionally steady, exercise your critical thinking, and take pragmatic action even in the most uncertain circumstance,” writes Lei.

Source: Lei, Harvard Business Review, 1/9/19

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