Leadership ~ Creating Stability in the Midst of Uncertainty

Over the holidays, I allowed my curiosity to scan the Internet for 2012 predictions.   It seems that we are in for a big year. In fact, according to a Mayan prophecy, on December 21, 2012, the World is to come to an end…again.  The good news is that apparently too, one quarter of our planet will be online so I suppose many of us will have some time to say our goodbyes before we all fade to black.

While my tongue remains firmly in cheek regarding prophesied world ending events, these thoughts give rise to the notion that there always seems to be something happening, changing, interfering with, or otherwise upsetting our equilibrium.  It’s the way of the world.  And, we are choosing to make our world more intricate and more accessible which renders our day-today dance both exciting and sometimes horribly stressful.

To me, all this suggests that a leader’s role, (at least one of them), is to create a platform for stability, often where none exists, because in a world of constant change and increased complexity, people need to feel anchored to something they can count on.

For some, it is as simple as knowing that in the face of the unknown, they can still be all right.  For example, during the Second World War, The British Government gave the people of Britain reassurance that they can still be all right through a poster campaign that said, among other things, “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

Of course it wasn’t the only thing they did to help sustain the people but it served as a vote of confidence in the spirit and capability of the British people to stay the course and overcome the hardship, terror and uncertainty that war had foisted upon them.  They, in turn, rose to the occasion finding ways to support each other; share what little resources they had and keep their upper lips proudly stiff.

Today too, we are bursting with uncertainty. We have come to know that just at the moment we begin to feel steady, things are going to change. So finding ways to create stability amid inconstancy is, in my view anyway, a primary goal for the 21st Century leader.

The question is, how? The answer is…well I’m not sure.  But I have some ideas and here they are:

1.    Be Purposeful

Knowing our organizational purpose is a great beginning to creating stability. After all, while change affects the way we go about fulfilling the purpose, the purpose itself, more often than not remains the same.

2.    Extend the purpose beyond the confines of organizational boundaries.

Most organizations support charities or causes of some kind.  Just as the causes can vary, so can the motivation for supporting them. To me though, doing good works that align with the organizational purpose helps the company grow roots and contribute to the creation of stable communities, both inside and outside corporate boundaries.

3.    Keep Learning

Broadening our knowledge base creates a more stable environment.  In other words, the more we know and understand the less there is to fear.  So giving true value and support to learning, not just training, will build a company of people who are confident, resilient and eager to see and experience what comes around the corner

4.    Be Guided by a set of strongly held values

World events, economic instability and a constant feed of both useful and useless information contribute to a dizzying existence for most people.  Sometimes we just need to stop and remember what’s important and what we stand for.   It’s kind of like being out in rough seas.  When we can’t see the shore and the boat is tossing us around mercilessly, our values serve as the lighthouse beacon that gives us the promise of solid ground.

5.    Take Blame out of the Equation

When things go wrong, and they do, it’s easy to panic.  When we panic we look to place blame.  Blame is the enemy of stability.  It rattles people and often for the wrong reasons.  Blame is not about accountability it is about passing a hot potato and making sure it lands in someone else’s lap.

Taking blame out of the organizational culture and replacing it with a more solution oriented demeanor allows more people the confidence to participate in solving problems as they arise rather than spending time looking for ways to take cover.

That’s what comes to mind for me anyway.  What about you?  How do you help people Keep Calm and Carry on?

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12 Comments

Filed under Change Management, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leading Change, Management, Organizational Effectiveness

12 responses to “Leadership ~ Creating Stability in the Midst of Uncertainty

  1. Another task is to look ahead and manage expectations.
    Our own sense of calmness helps feed or fuel the emotional climate around us.
    And be authentic. Be and do you. This is the person who will show up in the midst of chaos and crisis.

    Great post as always.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Martina ~ You bring up a very important thing here and that is, “Be and do you”. I agree that *that* will be person who shows up when things start hitting the fan. It also speaks to the importance of doing the work that allows us to know ourselves, (the good, the bad and the ugly of ourselves), so that we can manage expectations well and work to mitigate issues that come from our own potential responses.
      Thanks for adding that and for coming by!

  2. I think in terms of two aspects. First, that uncertainty provides the opportunity to create desired changes – it’s a matter of seizing the opportunity and driving towards the goals we want. Second, that uncertainty provides the opportunity to reflect inward and identify those aspects that will remain the same no matter what – core values, value propositions, fundamental purpose.

    Definitely a good post and good points you make, Gwyn.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Joe ~ I love the optimistic nature of your comment. And, of course, you’re right. In turmoil there is opportunity for learning and growth And for shaping the future. I think it’s easy to forget that when overwhelm comes to visit. So yes, the leader’s role includes, as you say,pointing to and focusing on the patches of blue in an otherwise cloudy sky and helping people to remain focused on the fundamentals.
      Thank you! It’s always nice to have your voice heard here!

  3. As you said in your fourth point when you know your intrinsic values and you hold to them when “seas are rough” it is easier to make decisions. For me a good indicator is how my “gut” feels – when the butterflies start swooping it’s time for me to take pause and reflect if I am headed in the right direction. More often than not my intuition is right.
    Thanks Gwyn – thoughtful post.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Janice ~ there’s nothing like a pair of antennae in good working order that registers its findings in the gut. I think women are particularly good at listening to their intuition and while it is not infallible it does allow us to stop and consider before jumping into action.
      Thanks for adding that! It’s nice to see you here :)

  4. Ade

    Great post Gwyn.

    Majority of the leaders l know tend to have the common “l am more productive when under pressure or during crisis” mentality.

    I feel more comfortable with your proactive and strategic approach rather the above baseless assumption.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Ade ~ Good point. To me, the thing about leadership is that it is not really about the leader and how well s/he copes in a crisis. It is more about the leader’s ability to see and respond to how productive others are, or may be, in a crisis. And, we know what Oscar Wilde had to say about assumptions ~ “To assume is to make an ass out of U and Me
      Thank you for coming by and for your kind words. :)

  5. Thank you. The world can be a dizzying place, but if those of us who know how to stay still *do* stay still, and keep committing to centering our energies, it makes a positive difference to ourselves and others. I have applied my centeredness around Autism, Asperger’s and Alzheimer’s, and will continue to do so. Keep sharing your great posts, Gwyn. Tryn Rose

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Tryn Rose ~ Yes, and it takes a lot of self-discipline and self-knowledge to be able to stay still when all around you is spinning. Thank you for adding that and for the work you do.

  6. Great post. In 2012, the speed of change (and uncertainty) will become more rapid – not less. As leaders – we need to embrace this and understand rapid change is the norm. #5 is key. Let everyone know we are going to break a lot of eggs in 2012 and encourage everyone to figure out how to make the best omelets.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Mike, I like the way you put that. An omelet can sometimes also turn out to be scrambled eggs but if it is put together with good intentions it tastes just as good.:)

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