5 Ways Successful Leaders Deal With Uncertainty

As a leader, it’s important to deal with uncertainty and find opportunity in the midst of uncertainty.

Leaders are often expected to have all the answers. Not only is this an expectation shared by many, it is regularly self-imposed. If you do not have the answer to a leadership challenge, you may possibly feel inadequate or uncertain and vulnerable. None of these emotions feels good and are often frowned upon in the workplace — or so you may have been taught.

Are you really never supposed to experience uncertainty as a leader? You are a human being and hard-wired for struggle — stuff happens. You are comprised of all the good, bad and ugly that comes with being a human, which is not the Hollywood version of leaders who ride into the scene to save the day. And with your humanness, you will sometimes, or many times, feel uncertain about your abilities.

How do you work with uncertainty and vulnerability without going crazy? Follow these five steps which will assist you during these times:

1. Embrace uncertainty and vulnerability

Reach into any doubts and fears you have and pull out all the anxieties and doubts. What do most leaders do with this uncertainty? Well, bury it of course. This strategy of burying and numbing may work for a while, until it shows up again as illness, ulcers or worse. Why do you think people in leadership roles are so stressed, obese and addicted? It is because feelings get buried and numbed.

The interesting thing about the numbing strategy is that when you numb your “bad” feelings such as uncertainty, vulnerability, doubt and fear you are also numbing your “good” feelings of joy, peace and gratitude.

2. Stay present

Do not worry about the future or live in the past. The only moment you have to live in is the present one, so why waste it? The nature of uncertainty is that the future is unknown. Time spent fretting about what might happen is just an exercise in fiction.

What does living in and embracing the present moment bring? This moment of uncertainty and vulnerability is where creativity, joy and beauty are found. Great work is created in the vulnerable state of uncertainty and presence in the moment. Walking through the door of uncertainty and vulnerability is full of endless possibilities because this is the location of your true, authentic self. Peace is found in authenticity.

3. Stay in your own lane

When you start to compare yourself to others, you set yourself up for failure. It is not because you cannot be as successful as someone else, but because you cannot be anyone else. The only thing you can be is the best version of you — your best, authentic and true self.

This can be a challenge during times of uncertainty because you may see others who are dealing with uncertainty with more ease. Instead of going to a place of comparison, pull away and observe. Has this other person tapped into the present moment? Are the creative juices flowing for that other person? Are they peaceful because they are authentically in touch with their fears, concerns or excitement about possibilities? Observe, learn and know that you will find the most peace when you aren’t pretending but are authentically you.

4. Practice gratitude

Nothing else will bring you into the present moment faster than gratitude. When you practice gratitude, you are reminded of the blessings and opportunities that surround you right now. The funny thing about being in a state of gratitude is that when you focus upon that for which you are grateful, you receive more. Yes, more.

What occupies your mental and spiritual focus shows up in all aspects of your life. Therefore, if you are focusing on those factors that make you grateful, you will have more of those results showing up.

Remember that the converse is also true. If your focus is on worry, fear and a scarcity mentality, get ready for more worry, fear and lack of showing up. Your thoughts are a powerful force, so be intentional and strategic about where you put your focus.

5. Be loving and truthful with yourself and others

Be gentle and graceful with yourself and others during times of uncertainty. All the feelings you are having in these times, just know that others are having them too. When you practice kindness, you will find patience, grace and empathy. Tell yourself the truth about how you are feeling and be prepared for both positive and negative feelings and thoughts coming back to you. Honor and acknowledge all the responses you receive and intentionally shift to more supportive feelings and thoughts. How do you shift? Do what gives you joy and be present to fully enjoy that activity. The only certainty we have is the present. What is certain is what gives you joy. It really can be that simple in what seems like great complexity.

Remember that uncertainty and vulnerability is the birthplace of truth, authenticity and creativity. If you choose (yes, it is your choice) to step into and embrace the uncertainty, stay present in the moment with gratitude, and give yourself loving grace, you will find tremendous opportunities in uncertainty to help shape a future that you may not have otherwise dreamt possible.

About the author: Dr. Maria Church, CSP, CPC, is a speaker, consultant and executive coach. She specializes in organizational culture, change agility and leadership development with over 25 years working for Fortune 500 companies, local government, nonprofits and academia. She may be reached at www.drmariachurch.com.


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