We’ve never known a more uncertain time — politicians of all parties, of all nations, are floundering. The “facts” change daily. We’re bombarded with theories, projections, and hypotheses.
It’s in times such as these that we turn to our leaders for answers. We expect them to be a few steps ahead. We expect them to know more than we do. We need them to know more than we do so they can ease our fears, guide us through uncertainty, and provide a vision for a positive path forward.
Now, more than ever, we need our leaders to lead.
Talk about pressure!
But our leaders have proven their worth, right? That’s why they’re the ones in charge. They should, in theory, have the skills, the knowledge, and the ability to step up. Piece of cake!
Well, not exactly.
If, like me, you’ve been watching COVID19 play out nationally, regionally, and locally, you’ll realize that we’re still just at chapter one. The depth of the impact this virus will have on our economy is yet to be known. But we know enough to realize that it will be significant.
And our leaders know it too.
I’m hearing weary leaders offer the same hollow reassurances:
We are making the best decisions with the information we have today…
We know not everyone will agree this is the best decision…
We may not have seen the eye of the storm yet…
I had no choice but to lay off employees. We cannot stay open…
And it’s not necessarily a reflection on them, or their ability to lead. For most of us, this situation is unprecedented. Recognizing the right decision is hard. Communicating it to people who are not only afraid for their jobs, but who are afraid for their lives, or for the lives of their loved ones, is harder still.
Communication in times like these requires empathy, compassion, and complete honesty. Leaders must convey confidence in their decision-making skills, even while they themselves are unsure whether they’ve made the right call. Even when the information they’re working with is changing by the day.
It’s a horrible, unenviable task. So how can our leaders make communication, in the face of uncertainty, easier?
1) Embrace imperfection. It is impossible to be perfect. It is even more unrealistic to try to be perfect during a crisis we’ve never faced before.
2) Communicate, communicate, communicate. We are hungry for more information. Desperate to know how the world is changing. Don’t forget, communication is two-way. Listen to understand what is being said and what is not. In listening we’ll uncover questions we might not have anticipated. These questions will help us to navigate the right answers for our organizations.
3) Lace up your dance shoes. Recovery will not be a linear path forward — we may have to accept taking one step forward followed by two steps back. But, just like the buds of new growth signaling spring is here, we will begin to see signs of recovery. When we do, we’ll have to appreciate that we’re charting a new path, one without a map. We’ll need to adjust and pivot.
4) Take a time out. This isn’t over and you are likely already exhausted. For so many of us, decisions about people’s lives may have us running to pull the covers over our head. You can’t shut down but you can, and should, take a break when you need to. Leaders must eat well, sleep, get outside and walk, and find reasons to smile. We need our leaders healthy and optimistic.
These are scary times. No one has all of the answers — not even the most competent leader can claim to know the best way through this. But one thing we can be sure of is that when we come together, when we base our decisions in kindness and integrity, we’ll foster the sense of community that we need now, more than ever.
So here’s our call to action for you: think of a leader in your community. It may not be an “official” leader with a special title or a position, it may be someone who has seen a need and is finding a way to fill the gap, someone who is going above and beyond to serve their community. Reach out to them. Thank them for what they are doing. They may not have all of the answers, but they’re doing their best. And if we do what we can to help them, they’ll see us through this and beyond.
Do you know a leader who deserves a shout-out? We’ve launched a #FrontlineFriday feature series where we’re telling short stories about the leaders who are showing up on our frontlines. And we’d love to include the people who are inspiring you right now. So tell us all about them. We’re listening! Cadie@pointnorthinc.com