5 Leadership Skills to Protect Teams in Times of Uncertainty

Nov 02, 2020 4 Min Read
leadership skills, uncertainty
Leadership Through Uncertainty

We are currently going through one of the most uncertain times in recent history. The U.S. Economic Policy Uncertainty Index has been at its all-time high multiple times since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In times of crisis, leaders who are more competent in these 5 skills can better protect their teams.

1. Emotional Intelligence

Uncertainty causes emotional exhaustion both for the leader and their teams. The stress and anxiety caused by the uncertainty typically reduces the performance of the leaders and their teams.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognise your own emotions and those of others. And to be able to manage and influence your own emotions and those of others. Mastering emotions will thus help you become a better leader, especially in times of uncertainty.

There is a large body of knowledge available on how to improve your emotional intelligence. Particularly the works of Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis has gained a lot of popularity among business leaders.

Read more: The Four Pillars of Emotional Intelligence

2. Resourcefulness

Resourcefulness is the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties. A resourceful leader thinks outside the box when faced with roadblocks, and instead of giving up, he/she does whatever it takes to get the job done.

Resourceful leaders are creative, persistent, and open minded. They persevere towards the end goal but easily and quickly change tactics when they get blocked. One of the greatest assets of resourceful leaders is their large network and personal relationships.

3. Empathy

Empathy is one’s ability to experience the world through someone else’s reality. Each person has their own distinct personality, life experience, beliefs, and sensations. The same event will thus be experienced differently depending on who you are.

How uncertainty feels to you will be different to how it feels to other people. Every person has a different set of goals, objectives, challenges, values, motives, culture, and upbringing. You can’t simply assume what people feel just by imagining how you would feel in their situation because you don’t share the same values, motives, upbringing, and so on. To be able to truly empathise with someone, we need to be curious about them and place our full attention and focus on them trying to understand how they perceive and feel the events.

4. Systems thinking

Systems thinking is a holistic approach to problem solving. Systems thinkers look at the big picture and consider the broader ecosystem that their subject is part of (hence the name systems thinking). They understand complexity and are able to identify connections that may be overlooked by others. To be a more effective systems thinker a leader needs to ask these questions when making decisions:

  • Why do we want to solve this problem? What is the end outcome we are after?
  • What is the broader ecosystem that our subject is part of?
  • How does the subject interact with the broader system? Let’s look at the bigger picture.
  • What is the future price we may have to pay across time and space because of this decision?

The easiest solution is often the wrong solution. What are some scenarios that may play out because of this decision?
The Fifth Discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization by Peter Senge is a seminal book on systems thinking and is highly recommended to business leaders who want to improve their systems thinking skills.

5. Humility

Some may argue that humility is not a skill rather it is a character trait. I believe anything that you can improve and get better at with practice is a skill. And people who have a growth mindset can certainly increase their humility with effort and practice.

Humble leaders don’t see themselves above the team. They see themselves as part of the team and collaborate with them closely. Humble leaders are wise. They ask their team members to disagree with them freely as they want to be illuminated by the perspectives of others.

Humble leaders show vulnerability and courage. These are the leaders who are willing to take a pay cut in uncertain times so that they do not have to reduce the workforce. This is the type of leader that Simon Sinek describes in his book, Leaders Eat Last.

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Tags: Emerging Leadership

Arash Arabi is the founder of Australian coaching company Sprint Agile. He helps organisations move from opinion-based decision making to evidence-based decision making.

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