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Fostering Hope: 4 Critical Leadership Steps to Leading Others Through Uncertainty

Updated: Jan 25

We hear a lot about “#navigatinguncertainty” these days and rightfully so. Financial crises, Covid, and political discord all contribute to a sense of loss of control and uncertainty about the future. We yearn for leadership, true leadership that can provide hope and direction, a sense of stability if not certainty. We need faith in leadership.

The statistics reveal high levels of stress and anxiety in our workforce employees. There are a multitude of “things” that can be done (and some should be) to assist employees in mitigating their stress. From a leadership perspective, our role is to create hope, and faith in its potential. This will shift the attention from dealing with stress to focusing on possibility.

Hope is the feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

HOPE in Times of Uncertainty

Research indicates that hope can help us manage stress and anxiety and cope with adversity – i.e. increase #resiliency. It contributes to our well-being and happiness and motivates positive action. Hopeful people believe they can influence their goals and that their efforts can have a positive impact.

Faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". In this context, the substance of things hoped for is translated as the assurance or confidence of things hoped for. The evidence is the argument for the validity of faith. This can be restated then as Faith is the certainty of something that one does not see and an argument for its validity.” How, as a leader, can you encourage faith and hope and thereby mitigate stress related to uncertainty? Following are four elements that every leader should invest in to assist their organizations in managing uncertainty:

Step 1: Acknowledge the uncertainty and difficulties associated with it. Practice self-assuredness.

“The foundation of #successfulleadership during turbulent times is trust—gaining it and granting it,” says Antoinette Schoar, the Stewart C. Myers-Horn Family Professor of Finance and Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan. All leadership begins with self-leadership. If you’re anxious and stressed, your fear will spread into your team and organization, posing a greater threat to future success than any external one. Alternatively, if you self-regulate and remain calm, you’ll reassure others to stay calm and, in turn, help them make smarter decisions and build trust. Self-assuredness and trust are complemented with vulnerability and the willingness to acknowledge difficulty but not wallow in it.

Step 2: Create and communicate a #vision for your organizational future.

The vision is the “hope”. It’s a picture of the organization’s future. It is underpinned with mission and values and provides a north star for the organization. If you have established the trust and credibility necessary to leadership, they will have faith in the future vision. Additionally, current neuroscience indicates that visualization establishes neural pathways in the brain which act as a blue-print to be followed in the actual performance. The brain creates the same neural pathways when you visualize doing something or when you actually do it. Therefore, the vision serves as a guide and creates a hopeful future influencing behavior and belief.

Step 3: Invite others to join you. Empower, communicate, provide feedback, celebrate!

A 2019 article by Natalia Peart in Harvard Business Review indicates that higher employee engagement, or the strength of the mental and emotional connection an employee feels toward their workplace, has many positive benefits — including reduced stress, improved health and job satisfaction, as well as increased productivity, job retention, and profitability.

Step 4: Focus on the executables, those things that are within your control.

I am often reminded of a picture of the Serenity Prayer hanging in my grand-mothers house:

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Focusing on the executables requires focus and discipline from an engaged team. When things get wiggy or uncertainty creeps back in, this is what keeps the individual on track, producing results that will reinforce the validity of the vision and thereby the sense of control over their futures. As a leader, you can bring them back to focus reducing fear and mitigating uncertainty.

These steps may not be new and certainly aren’t rocket science. But without them your organization will not be able to fully invest themselves and keep the noise at bay. For you as a leader, implementing these will require presence, self-management, heightened communication, awareness and a commitment to the vision created. For assistance with these leadership competencies, drop us a line to discuss our approach to #leadershipdevelopment and programs for your teams.


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