Leading in Uncertainty During the Coronavirus PandemicHow You Can Be A Leader Right Now

The coronavirus has affected us all. For the first time in over a century, we are affected by what can be truly called a pandemic. This has led to all of us feeling a bit unsettled in this new uncertainty.

Events that were considered landmarks and constants such as professional sporting events, international flights, and even church services are just a few things on the now long list of activities we take for granted… that are closed, canceled or postponed.

Granted, this coronavirus is a notable national concern and yet it is also, in a loud way, a reminder that life is always uncertain. We all have had our own bitter or tragic reminders that life is not a predictable nor boring path.  We get to choose to look at the future with dread or remind ourselves that every day is a gift.

We Need True Leaders Now: Here’s Why

We believe that it’s in moments like this, moments of uncertainty, we need true leaders. That’s because while managers “manage a crisis” (aka… rushing to get back to the status quo), leaders face uncertainty head-on, and with gut and vision, defining a path through it.

We are compelled to follow those leaders who see through the crisis to a larger purpose or goal. When they communicate their path, their vision, we are inspired to connect our own energy to that vision, to help make that path passable.

This is a good time to reflect on how we, as common citizens… are leading or managing our own behavior, those in our workplace, and, of course, in our home.

Are we allowing ourselves to be swept away in the mania about toilet paper and disinfecting products or are we making decisions based on how we honestly believe we need to be prepared?

How To Be A Leader In Uncertain Times

In many ways, facing this coronavirus uncertainty is like stepping into and leading a project. Let’s take some hints from the IDEAL approach, and use them to improve how we lead ourselves and those we love through our own versions of this national situation.

  • Look around and make sure you’ve connected with those who feel a responsibility for. This could be a few extra phone calls to family and visits to elderly parents, a few extra precautions for interacting with the neighborhood kids, and finding some creative activities for kids to continue their learning when not in school. Share best practices for hand washing, maybe come up with your own song other than happy birthday that lasts 20 seconds.           [note: this is similar to the I steps of IDEAL, especially the Indoctrinate element]
  • Be real about situations. People can detect where you’re hiding things, and uncertain situations need a team that trusts each other. The circumstances are not trustworthy; it’s a “storm” out there changing every moment. Therefore, we need to rely on each other in trustworthy relationships around us. This is where we need to have real dialogue, we need to make sure we’ve got all the facts and assumptions on the table and we need to define what we agree we will stick to if the going gets tough.            [note: these are similar to the D steps of IDEAL, dialogue, discover and define]
  • Drive out fear, or, as we’d rather say, enable joy. Dr. W.E. Deming, the founder of the quality revolution of the last century, said a manager’s most important job is to enable joy (he had originally said ‘drive out fear’, which is really the same).  In these times, our gut reaction is to make decisions out of fear (like ‘oh my, we probably should get a year worth of toilet paper!”) Fear leads to confusion, not clarity. Clarity comes with focusing on that path, with an end in mind. [note: In the IDEAL approach, we have a section on encouraging. Without reiterating all that is in that part, take heed of the word itself…to en-courage. That is more than about being a cheerleader. It’s about driving out fear, enabling joy – staying connected to what we hold dear, creating solutions not panic and serving others with our strengths and talents].

Take Action Now: You Can Do This!

Now, here’s the cool part. If you’re struggling to see that leadership path above the circumstances to a higher goal, ask yourself this question:

What is something that you have wanted to do, that is more possible now, given the situation of working remotely and events being canceled?

We can view this great gift of time for the blessing it is to do things we normally wouldn’t.  Here are some ideas to spur some thoughts!

  • Catch up on some professional development PDUs, CEUs, or whatever they are called for your field.
  • Learn something new from a book.  Check out Enabling Joy and Lead the IDEAL Project.
  • Have video conference sessions with your team and work on developing the connections on the team.
  • Get to know your team in a new way, including their home life. In previous generations, there was not such a divider between work and home. Get to know the whole family as another way to build trust and compassion on your team.  It’s good for the kids too!Intentionally Living your Strengths Curriculum Image
  • Learn a new skill through an online course.  We have a course that walks you through multiple feedback mechanisms to identify the areas where you have extraordinary ability.  It is Intentionally Living your Strengths.
  • Teach someone a new skill.  Get on your favorite video chat platform and learn something together.
  • Invest more time in your family, friends. Try reaching out to those you only seem to see at weddings and funerals.
  • For those of you with your children still home, probably home from school, teach them something they’d never learn in school…maybe even something from your work…gee, maybe how to lead a project!

Leader, Look UP!

As you can see, leading ourselves and others through this current challenge is a lot like the uncertainty we face in many projects. You can let it manage you or you can choose to lead through it.  We look up and lead by finding ways to utilize the situations God has given to make progress on what we really want in life.

Leading when Staying Home

Most of us have had events and school cancelled for the next few weeks.  We all wonder if we are facing irrational precaution or judicious reality.  There is good data out there that shows the benefits of social distancing and how it worked with the Spanish flu in 1918, a comparable pandemic.  The following image is from the Washington Post showing how social distancing is effective at “flattening the curve” as many are saying.

Washington Post - Spanish Flu

Credit: Washington Post

Since there are many things about this coronavirus that are unknown, I encourage you to lead in a way that values the health of your neighbors, coworkers, families, children, and the aging population around you by staying home as much as possible.

Each life is precious, so, let’s all do our part to contain this virus and give our scientific community a better chance to treat the sick.

While we are all hanging out anyway, let’s take some steps to learn something new! Here’s a few other blogs you might find interesting.


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