Powerful Tips on Leading in Uncertain Times

Powerful Tips on Leading in Uncertain Times September 27, 2020

I belong to the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF) and attended the annual conference virtually this year. We had a great line-up of speakers. Two of the speakers, former Secretary of State and now head of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, Condoleezza Rice, and Chief Economic Advisor at Allianz and President-elect of Queens’ College, Cambridge University, Dr. Mohamed A. El-Erian, shared some great perspectives on what makes leaders successful in challenging and changing environments.

Dr. Rice, who also teaches at Stanford, outlined three key characteristics of successful leaders. To lead skillfully, you need to:

  1. “Help others see the world the way it should be.” In other words, paint an inspiring and grounded picture of a preferred future that goes beyond the current reality.
  2. Know the details of your company or organization so you can deploy people and resources effectively. Unlike some who separate out leadership and management, Dr. Rice sees both as essential in leading others – “Management and leadership are more connected than we think.” When a leader knows the business and defines the results expected, they can reward and recognize the right behaviors to get the right results. Without knowledge of how the organization operates, you lose the respect of others, no matter how inspirational you are.
  3. You must possess integrity – without it, you cannot build trust. Trust is a major building block of any significant relationship and leadership success.

“Help others see the world the way it should be.”

– Dr. Condoleezza Rice

Dr. El-Erian advises leaders to look for three characteristics in themselves and in building teams now and in the future:

  1. Resilience is a realistic and strong sense of identity, sense of purpose and will. If you have had the chance to catch NetFlix’ new series, Away, the challenges the crew face in route to Mars are a great example. One of the crises they handled was losing water and not having enough to survive the trip. The crew and extended team on Earth had to come up with an innovative approach to retrieving water from inside the ship – a real nail biter. Resilience is about creating a strong culture of commitment, shared values and making difficult choices in the face of adversity.
  2. Agility is the ability to handle rapid change by creating structures, processes, operations, and leading people to act fast, be highly flexible and adapt. Agile teams are nimble. If you are on an agile team, you do not allow past structures and habits to limit your response to uncertain conditions.
  3. Optionality simply stated is to have choices without the restriction of something required or mandatory. Compliance rules and laws can restrict the range of options exercised. It is important to ask, “Is this really mandatory or should we question the validity of this restriction?” As a team, staying open to options, even some that sound illogical or crazy can lead the way to innovation.

I enjoy hearing successful people speak about what has worked for them. I trust you’ll find these tips useful as you navigate these uncertain times.