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Being a leader in any area of life is an honour, a privilege, and an almighty responsibility. After all, people look to you for support, come to you for guidance, and rely on you for answers. You have to inspire your team, take ownership of issues, and put out proverbial fires whenever they arise.

It’s no wonder that leadership training and development has become a $366 billion global industry. Stepping up to the plate and developing strong leadership qualities isn’t easy.

That much is true at the best of times. However, leadership only gets harder in times of crisis!

When everything’s up in the air and chaos is the order of the day, having a strong leader at the helm can steady the ship and make an enormous difference. But what exactly does strong leadership look like in these instances of uncertainty? Want to find out?

Keep reading to discover 9 essential qualities of effective leaders in uncertain times.

1. Optimism

Uncertain times are unsettling times, right? When the ground feels shaky beneath your feet, it’s natural for fear and anxiety about the future to set in. The mere whiff of uncertainty can catapult your mind to worst-case scenarios involving lost jobs and financial trouble!

That’s why staying positive as a leader is so important. Maintaining a steady and upbeat air of confidence amidst the chaos can settle peoples’ nerves. They’ll feel reassured by your positivity, assume the horizon is brighter than it seems, and remain effective in their roles as a result.

2. Authenticity & Honesty

Inexperienced leaders often find it hard to admit when they don’t have all the answers. Knowing that people are looking to them for help, they try to save face and disguise reality as a result.

In tricky times, good leadership calls for a more authentic approach.

Instead of hiding the truth from your team, strive to treat each individual with respect and courtesy, communicating with openness and integrity. This transparent and authentic approach wins every time. You’ll maintain peoples’ trust and support, both of which are crucial if you want to lead.

3. Strong Communication

Think about the best leaders of bygone years- people like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and J.F. Kennedy. Among their many enviable attributes, what did they all have in common?

Incredible communication skills, right?

It was their ability to communicate with clarity and conviction that enabled them to engage audiences and amass their followings. Without this quality, they’d never have been able to bring people together and have the impact they did on the world.

Keep that in mind as you set about leading your team through times of uncertainty. Communicating with them every step of the way will facilitate collaboration, help everybody feel supported, and ensure the necessary work gets done. It’s one of the most effective tools at your disposal for getting through trying times with minimal fallout.  

4. Flexibility

It’s important to take on a mindset of flexibility in your leadership style as well. No two challenges are the same, which means a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership never works. You have to adapt to the needs of the hour, seek the best approach for the current circumstance, and be ready to pivot whenever you realize something isn’t working.

This is especially important when it comes to remote working.

With their team no longer in the office, leaders have to change the way they’d usually conduct operations. That might mean setting up virtual meetings and check-ins, adopting new communication strategies (such as Slack and Zoom), and being willing to allow flexible working hours. Failing to adapt in these ways could lead to a decrease in morale, productivity, and employee satisfaction!

5. Vulnerability

Staying transparent and authentic in this way isn’t easy. Why?

Because it involves being vulnerable! You have to show yourself, reveal your hand, and own up to the fact you don’t have all the answers.

Now, some leaders may feel that vulnerability runs contrary to the need of the hour; that strength and certainty are better antidotes to the problem. But the irony is that being vulnerable is a sign of strength. It takes courage to admit your imperfections.

Pretending otherwise is to shut yourself off to feedback, discount other peoples’ opinions, and close down open dialogue. That’s the last thing you want when you’re trying to navigate trying times.

6. Presence

In times of uncertainty, there’s nothing more demoralizing than feeling abandoned by your leaders. After all, people look upwards for answers. A rising sense of frustration, hopelessness, and isolation can set in if nobody’s there to ask!

The best leaders realize this and strive to be on-site, visible, and present as much as possible. They show their face, spend time in the office or on the shop floor, and let people know their door’s always open. They stay present at an emotional level too, communicating with sensitivity and understanding at every turn.

7. Values-Driven

Every organisation has a set of values that dictates both its standards and approach. These values are like a North Star. They remind you ‘why’ you do what you do and light the way to where you want to go.

Those values are never more important than in uncertain moments! They act like a ship’s anchor- holding you in place in stormy conditions and stopping you from drifting too far off-shore. Effective leaders understand this significance and embody the organisation’s values every single day.

In so doing, they serve as a role model for everybody else. They put a flag in the sand and set the standard for what’s expected of the team.

8. Curiosity

Curiosity’s a vital antidote to uncertainty. After all, everything is up in the air; nobody knows what’s happening or holds the key to resolution. Staying curious helps you and the team turn that situation around and find effective solutions to the problem(s) at hand.

Of course, this also works side by side with communicating with transparency and authenticity. To be curious is to seek feedback, be flexible, and work together as a team. In other words, you have to be present, own up to your ignorance and turn outward for answers.

9. Compassion

Last, but by no means least, is compassion. A hallmark of effective leadership in uncertain moments is having everybody’s best interests at heart.

It’s about recognising the challenge involved, understanding the hardship, and remaining empathic throughout. Try not to push people beyond their capabilities, offer words of encouragement at every opportunity, and thank everybody for their commitment.

Succeed in this regard and everything else will become easier in the process.

And remember, self-compassion is just as important. As we’ve seen, being a leader through difficult situations is an unenviable task. You’re dealing with stress, high-emotion, and carrying the burden of responsibility on your shoulders. Being kind to yourself and looking after your personal wellbeing as well is crucial to success.

Remember These Essential Leadership Qualities

No matter who you are or what industry you work in, being an effective leader is hard work! You have to solve problems, be a source of inspiration, and lead by example at all times.

The role only gets more difficult (and more essential) in periods of uncertainty.

With any luck, though, the leadership qualities that we’ve discussed in this post will prove useful in such moments. Combine them with strong communication skills and an ongoing willingness to evolve how you delegate and direct projects in an increasingly virtual world, and you’ll be one step closer to contending with any crises that arise. 

Are you looking for support with your leadership journey? Need some help navigating the uncertainty of our current climate? Get in touch today to see how we can be of service.

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