Updated: Aug 17, 2021
A challenge that most leaders are not trained to manage.
Covid-19 has provided an incredible high level of uncertainty, not only because it happened suddenly and without warning but also because it appears unpredictable in the near future. No one knows how long it will take to be controlled and how many more people will be affected. More importantly nobody knows the effect of new variations or mutations.
It challenges our safety, represented by the bottom of Maslows’s hierarchy of needs. The effect of the lockdown in the population specially on kids is yet to be determined and it is rapidly evolving and changing with conflicting sources of information, disorienting leaders and those around them.
Leaders navigating through the Covid-19 will encounter all levels of fear, anxiety, panic, and concern. The key is to be rational and stay calm.
Uncertainty is a major cause of stress and can affect your mental and physical health.
Although we have faced uncertainty many times before, the uncertainty that we are worrying about is much bigger than a new competitor, a new technology, or some economic indicators that could affect our businesses. This new level of uncertainty has to do with our safety and the safety of our loved ones.
Uncertainty limits our ability to plan for the future. Our brains make decisions for the future based on our past experiences. When the future is uncertain or we are experiencing something new, we can’t rely on past experiences to make decisions. Fear of the unknown can trigger the state of stress which activates our fight-or-flight response, that could lead to hormone surges, increased heart rate, and an overall sense of emergency.
How to deal with uncertainty
Accepting uncertainty is key to your overall health. Our normal day to day life is loaded with uncertainty and it is important to be realistic about how much control we really have over everything that happens around us. We may not like uncertainty but we have to admit is part of our life. Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up, is an active, empowered state in which we are grounded in the present.
Accept the pandemic, the isolation, and our new reality will allow us to be more effective ascertain the options that we have.
Acceptance can be thought of as the opposite of denial. Acknowledging our everyday uncertainties and focusing on the fact that you still went about your life can build your tolerance to understand more significant uncertainties.
2.- Be positive
In times of uncertainty, it’s doubly important that leaders show their confidence as well as express confidence in their organization and their people. Negative thoughts are generally 4 to 7 times more powerful than positive thoughts and that’s what guarantees our survival as a species. Avoid negative thoughts and more importantly, do not verbalize them because that exponentially predicts and perpetuates the negative outcome. Avoid falling into a negative spiral, remember that you have to be an example for your team.
3.- Be Courageous
A great leader acts in the face of fear and uncertainty and inspires others to follow. Courage is not operating in the absence of fear, it is to triumph over it. Courage includes taking a chance when others will not; following your vision, no matter where it takes you and standing up for what you believe in. Doing what is right and not what is easy. Courageous people believe the unbelievable, have no problem saying “NO” and are not afraid of taking an unpopular stand. They believe so much in what they want that will maintain the course when everyone else has abandoned the ship.
4.- Develop Empathy
The pandemic demands from leaders to exercise fundamental empathy. They must be aware of the wide ranging and difficult emotions that people are experiencing and demonstrate their care and understanding.
Empathetic leaders have a genuine curiosity about the lives of those who work for them and they show their interest by asking questions about people’s lives, their challenges, their families, and their aspirations. It’s not a professional interest but a personal one, and it’s the strongest way to build relationships.
The practice of mindfulness provides tools to measure and manage our life as we’re living it. It teaches us to pay attention to the present moment, recognizing our feelings and emotions and keeping them under control, especially facing highly stressful situations.
Mindfulness increases leadership skills like inspiring a shared vision and demonstrating moral intelligence. It also enables executives to consciously choose what’s best for the individual, team, and organization.
6.- Focus on things you can control.
It is important to create a list of all the things that affect us and then determine those we have some level of control. Devoting time and energy to aspects that are totally beyond our control creates an alternate source of stress and frustration that affects our performance as leaders.
Apart from taking care of ourselves and our influence group, there is very little we can do to stop the advance of the pandemic. So it is important to focus only on the things that are directly within our control and hope for the best for the rest of them.
That is why internet search engines are loaded of pandemic information related searches.
We think that as we have more information, we will be better prepared to make decisions. We forget that much of this information is completely beyond our control and its constant review only generates an additional source of frustration and concern.
Learning to live with uncertainty will help leaders to control anxiety and fear.
The use of these 6 simple rules will have a positive impact on the leader’s capacity to determine what is important and stay focused, communicate properly keeping messages clear and concise, and learn how to act accordingly especially during difficult times.