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Leadership in difficult times

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When it comes to leadership, there will always be times of uncertainty. In these times, the challenge is to be able to lead from a position of trust despite the unstable environment. Here are a few strategies:

1. Know your limits

Make an honest self-assessment. Find out how much (or how little) you trust yourself and your abilities so that you know when to take action and when to retire. This will help you make better decisions that lead to positive results for you and your organization.

A few questions about self-reflection:

  • What am I feeling?
  • How justified are my convictions about a particular situation?
  • Are my arguments logical or emotional?
  • Have I weighed all the pros and cons of the situation?
  • What are the possible consequences if I act according to my convictions?
  • Would others agree with me, and if not, why not?
  • What information do I need to consider before making a decision?

It is completely normal to want to regulate everything, including things that are realistically beyond our control, such as the market. That's why it's important to focus on what you can really control — not on other people, events, or results.

2. Practice situational leadership

The good news is that even in uncertain times, you can maintain a certain influence on your environment if you apply situational leadership skills. Situational leadership is a flexible leadership approach based on the idea that the best way to lead is to understand and adapt to the needs of each situation. It takes into account the individual characteristics of the people you lead and recognizes that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, interests, goals, and priorities.

It also acknowledges that situations change over time — and that your leadership approach must adapt accordingly. What is uncertain today may no longer be tomorrow. So don't overreact to the current circumstances. Be flexible, agile, and pragmatic.

3. Lead with compassion

In uncertain times, it is particularly important to be compassionate with your employees, as they may have fears and uncertainties about the future of their jobs or even of the entire company. You can help them by being compassionate, understanding, and supportive.

Understand that fear and uncertainty are normal reactions when people are threatened by change or uncertainty.

Pay attention to how you communicate with others during such phases: Do you radiate positive energy? Are people comfortable sharing their ideas with you? Are they willing to raise concerns or ask questions without fear of negative consequences? If not, you should make changes so that everyone feels confident in their work roles, so that they can fulfill their responsibilities and express themselves freely without fear of negative consequences.

4. Transparent communication

It is important to communicate uncertainty with trust and transparency. Influential leaders can express uncertainty on both a personal and corporate level while navigating stressful situations. If you're leading a team that's facing change or uncertainty, be honest and communicate that you understand how difficult it can be. If you reassure your employees and show them that their concerns are justified, they'll be more likely to open up and say what they need.

Compassion enables everyone in the organization (and beyond) to grow and learn in times of uncertainty — which ultimately leads to great success when long-term goals are back in focus and the dust of uncertainty has settled.

5. Future plans

One important lesson to learn as a manager during uncertain times is that there will be more such times in the future. That is the cycle of business life and all the surrounding factors that influence its performance. So the best thing you can do while navigating uncertain times today in all of the ways mentioned above is to plan for the future.

However, you can prepare yourself now and implement processes and systems that enable you to adapt quickly to these unknowns. This allows you to thrive in times of change instead of just surviving.

Inspire others and be positive

As a manager, you are a role model for the people in your organization. You can inspire others by moving forward in your own life with confidence and a positive attitude:

Be an encourager. Your positive attitude will help you encourage others to do their best and make them feel good. Make sure to praise them when they achieve something, offer constructive criticism when needed, and provide honest feedback when someone needs improvements in communication or teamwork.

Be a good listener. Listening is just as important as speaking because it helps build trust between team members, which is essential for strong relationships within an organization. So make sure you listen when someone suggests an idea or a potential solution to a problem, and ask questions so they know that their opinion is important.

Stay calm. Your employees and stakeholders see you as a kind of compass for their attitude towards the future of your company. That's why you should always pay attention to how you act — if you panic, they'll panic too; if you stay calm, they'll probably stay calm too.

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