The world is in chaos: How to lead in times of uncertainty?

Once we saw the light at the end of the tunnel and when it started to show that COVID was going to be just a normal part of the normality of life as we knew it, another reality came, war. War is far from us but so close at the same time. A state of war that will be felt by all of us. But I will not write about the war; I want to write something that is useful for any situation of uncertainty, rapid change, or reducing the sense of security. Because this is the world around us and situations like COVID and war only shed more light on it. And I want to write something with a look ahead, beyond the boundaries of the current situation. I want to remind you of what awaits us and the fact that we have to get there and continue to build there.

With all these facts, the most important thing is that we are all facing even greater changes than we have experienced in the past. Situations will require us to make greater adjustments than ever before. World policies and views are changing the way we do business. What changes the most is a certainty, security, and a clear view of the future. The foundations on which people can function and create optimally are changing. And this is the new reality that companies that want to grow and develop in the long run must respond to. For some time now, the trend has been to ensure sustainability. Have you ever thought that it is essential to involve people in a sustainability strategy?

Who has to play a key role in the process of this transformation, or rather, in the process of finding and laying new foundations? The answer to that is simple, everyone. We are all part of the solution, and we all have a lot of work to do and make a lot of changes in the way we work.

The role of the owners

Owners have a very strong dilemma on the path of sustainability, as they have a higher risk on the one hand and the greatest responsibility on the other. But it is the owners who can set performance criteria on the basis of which they will assess the growth and performance of companies. The excuse that they are being forced into current decisions by the situation in the capital markets is only a reflection of the need for security and anticipation of results. A sustainable view on investment at the moment requires a more visionary approach and even greater risk in the eyes of the owners. Higher risk, of course, brings higher returns. So what do the owners lack: courage, determination, empathy, foucus?

The role of the leaders

We work best in a state where our core is safe. But in today’s world of uncertainty, change, and personal vulnerability, our cores are at stake. How we protect them depends on each individual and is a complex internal process. In the light of sustainability, managers must ensure that employees strive for sustainable solutions and are healthy, and contribute their maximum input to the company’s vision. So, leaders are at a historical turning point. Leadership, in the light of process optimization and cost reduction, is increasingly moving towards supporting employees at their maximum input but with protecting their mental state in mind.

All of this requires much more skill and inner stability from leaders. Leaders must be visionary and uncompromisingly goal-oriented, but at the same time compassionate and humane towards their team. Many leaders feel distressed by the internal conflict between satisfying quick results and the owners. But at the same time, develop the team in the long run and prepare it for the next big goals. In addition to the development of competencies, in the light of sustainable management, health is also becoming increasingly important, both for the physical health and the mental health of employees.

So leaders need to intertwine more and more segments. But who cares about leaders? We forget that the training of leaders alone is not enough. With all the new realities, leaders are under considerable stress, affecting all aspects of their lives. Even leaders are just people with their inner worlds, beliefs, needs, and fears. Sustainable management should make the mental health of executives one of the priorities of the HR strategy.

The role of the employees

In an economy where there is a demand and a supply, it is easy to stand and wait with an opinion. When society is ready, we in the company will adapt to this. But the company is dependent on your employees, employees of companies in your supply chain, employees of competing companies, customers,… For a moment, think about what employees are telling you, what their needs are, and what they expect from you. And can you honestly admit how responsive you are to their needs?

And I’ll ask a different question: how responsive are you to the needs of society? Employees need the same amount of attention in terms of their development and mental health as should be paid to managers. And employees should also take part in the responsibility to communicate the new needs of the company clearly and directly and be active in creating new realities and solutions. All too often, employees fall into a passive role, which is a step away from sustainability.

How to lead in times of uncertainty?

And let me go back to the original thought of disease and war. Both illness and war leave behind sadness, anger, and destruction. How we, as a society, respond to this depends on each individual’s ability to ensure a sustainable future that gives optimism in the light of hope and prosperity. The thing is very simple:

  • If you are the owner, choose the management of companies that will take care of the sustainable development of products and businesses and the impact of organizations on society at large with a shaky hand.
  • If you are a representative of the company’s management, take care of yourself and your own development, as well as your employees’ and their development. Keep in mind that only healthy and happy people can contribute to common victories. And be aware of your own strength and, above all, the responsibility you have for your own world and the micro-worlds of your colleagues.
  • If you are an employee, take your part responsibility for a better tomorrow for you, your company, and your surroundings. Try to resolve all your troubles, misunderstandings, and dilemmas as soon as possible. Share your opinions with your superiors and, above all, strive to learn. What you did today, you can do even better tomorrow.
This is how everyone can contribute a piece to the puzzle of sustainable business.
  • What can I do as a coach? I know that challenges sometimes feel like meaningless struggles. I see my role in this in the support I offer in finding that piece of the puzzle to make changes, goals, visions, and actions make sense. But then the work begins, and I see my role as providing support in planning and implementing strategies. People, in their sense, want to see and create beauty and progress, and that is the awareness I have every time I meet a client. My responsibility is to see the bright side of things and to make the best of whatever I come across.