Leadership during economic uncertainty is challenging, as leaders are faced with the task of navigating the organization through a difficult and unpredictable business environment. However, strong and empathetic leadership can help to minimize the impact of economic uncertainty on the organization and its employees. In the last three years, this has constantly necessitated reformation in a wide range of areas, including consumer behavior, workplace culture, and even the place of corporations in society.
As businesses are compelled to make quick decisions to overhaul operations or services, reorganize structures to adjust for economic environment, or make the more difficult decision as the economic situation deteriorates, the corporate world is currently plagued by uncertainty and apprehension. Moments like these require leaders to lead from the front while keeping people at the centre of all decision making. One of the key responsibilities organizations have during uncertain times, is to communicate effectively with their team members. Leaders must be transparent and honest about the challenges that the organization is facing, and have a regular channel of communication to keep the team informed about plans and future outlook. By doing so, they can help to reduce fear and anxiety among their team members, and foster a sense of trust and understanding.
Many organisations are compelled to take corrective action when circumstances alter and the pressure of a leader’s decision is felt by the people at large. The psychology, dynamics, and motivation are tested in this phase because your team’s primary concern is now survival and security. Effective leaders need to understand the team’s fears, hopes and concerns. Be cautious and sensitive whenever you engage with anyone, whether in person or virtually, as you will notice increased worry and anxiety being brought on by the unknown.
In addition, leaders should also focus on building resilience and adaptability in their teams. Leaders should introspect the way they react to failure and how the create a physiologically safe environment. By encouraging team members to take risks, learn from failures, and try new approaches, leaders can help their teams to develop the skills and mindset necessary to succeed in an unpredictable business environment. It’s time, metaphorically speaking, to show that you are capable of being the captain of a large ship that will travel through rough seas, on a completely new route or destination with a crew that may be tired yet motivated.
Here are three things that, in my personal opinion, should become a leader’s go to operational model to help them through these difficult times and to assist their teams with clarity and hope:
- Allowing transparency – During uncertain times, the most resilient organizations have leaders that understand employee motivations and provide information transparently. Withholding crucial information for fear of how it will be received or viewed diminishes the strength that comes with exclusive knowledge. They must be able to assess their current situation, anticipate what will transpire, and better chart their course.
Transparency works both ways; it might be difficult to fully comprehend what someone is going through or how your team thinks about a decision; it is critical to obtain insight into their present mindset, which can be made simpler with open interactions. Here, it’s essential to not only be able to hear your employees, but also to pay attention and offer the most considerate, honest yet effective response.
- Staying humble – In the face of setbacks, we find it harder to admit and learn from our mistakes. Humility is the acceptance that we cannot do it alone, and empathy is the ability to understand the challenges that have brought people to where they are. Somewhere in the middle of all of this is a space that enables leaders to lead their teams in harmony. Being modest does not imply being weak, innocent, timid, or unable to have clear opinions. At Amazon, leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdotes differ. No task is beneath them. A leader thrives when they are able to handle people delicately and make difficult judgements without becoming condescending. Staying humble gives leaders, the liberty to err, to admit to being human, and carry on. Being vocally self-critical is also a leadership principle that leaders should emulate.
Offering empathetic advice in times of stress about difficult work and unforeseen circumstances would boost employee satisfaction and retention. It’s acceptable to find comfort in the realization that we frequently make mistakes.
It is to look for possibilities to learn. Learning and being curious, as well as approaching each day as if it were our first, are fundamental leadership concepts at Amazon.
- Vulnerability begets courage – Making a difficult decision entails risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure which often means that people will get hurt, resulting in conflicts and discomfort. Leader would need to be open to people’s emotions and understand how those emotions would affect their behavior and would need to accept difficult feedback, and still carry on. True courage comes when we decide to take a risk without knowing the outcome. Leaders would have to be comfortable with risk and facing an uncertain future because to be courageous, we have to be vulnerable. How brave a leader is, is measured by how vulnerable she/he is. But the mettle to readily approach conflicts is one of the most important skills of a leader. Having this integrated with the company culture has been much help in assimilating the diverse workforce at Amazon. The values urge employees and leaders to have a Bias for Action, Earn Trust and Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit to deliver results. Leaders and employees at Amazon are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious.
Leaders must focus heavily on culture and principles during challenging times. I believe that you should continually adjust your optimism-skepticism balance to lean more firmly in the direction of optimism, articulate and defend future goals—possibly even impossible ones. Every day, our leaders strive to create an atmosphere that is safer, more effective, higher performing, more diverse, and more than just a place to work. They make it simple for people to have fun, lead with empathy, and enjoy themselves at work. Are my fellow team members developing? Do they have authority? Are they prepared for what comes after? are questions that leaders need to ponder.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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