We are all facing times of uncertainty, no one is immune no matter how big or small your organization is. Many are facing some of the toughest decisions they have ever had to make. Things like furloughing beloved employees, laying off loyal team members, and downsizing organizations. All while thinking strategically about the future of their organization and looking squarely into the eyes of something unknown that many of us have never navigated, like pandemics, social isolation, shelter in place, work from home, essential and non-essential workers. This new sense of normal is challenging leaders to have to make decisions that represent the difficult side of leadership.
For many leaders, personal sacrifice is the name of the game and is something that is done without much thought. Personal sacrifice is the first step in times like this, using savings to keep payroll for another 2 weeks, second mortgages and cashing out lines of equity to buy a little more time. This personal sacrifice is part of the tough leadership decisions that many are making, this compared with laying off loyal employees, declining requests for charitable causes, or turning down vendors who also struggle to survive. Yet, for many, this is the future we find ourselves facing.
Leadership, in times of uncertainty, is about many things, among the most important are Understanding, Grit, and Courage. Leaders who rely on Understanding to make the right decisions will often take the time to slow down and assess the situation. Understanding helps us look beyond emotional responses, beyond current circumstances and pressures and gives us a glimpse into what others might need from us as leaders. Understanding helps us know the right thing to do and is often the perfect blend of heart and mind.
Grit can be described as the stick-to-itive-ness or the power to exert influence and impact outcomes. It is one thing to know the right thing to do, yet something altogether different to have the Grit and determination to do the right thing in these turbulent times. Grit comes in all shapes and sizes. From Financial Grit to know how to use the small amount of resources available to you, to Physical Grit of getting up each morning and staying in the game, to Emotional Grit of sticking by your belief system when it would be easy to compromise, to Mental Grit of staying focused when it would be easy to get sidetracked. Great leaders take daily, weekly, and monthly inventory and allow their Grit to guide them in times of uncertainty. Their Grit becomes their north star as they navigate.
Finally, Courage is not the absence of fear, instead, it is the commitment to do the right thing in the face of fear. Leaders are not immune from agonizing or second-guessing their decisions. They are not free from anxiety about the future. Courageous leaders do the right thing in spite of their questions, fears and anxieties. Courageous leaders dig deep in the face of uncertainty and keep moving forward putting one foot in front of the other.
Now, more than ever, is the time to lead with Understanding, Grit, and Courage. Now is the time that deepens and validates true leaders. It’s in these moments of leadership that your future is forged. What kind of leader will you be?
Boise State Center for Professional Development