Leadership Narratives in Uncertain Times

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Leaders are facing pressure to reassure their stakeholders with messages of certainty. The last six months of global turmoil have investors and employees turning to business leaders for reassurance about job security and economic projections. Sure, you can use mega trends, weak signals and other foresight tools to create a picture of the future. But a picture is not the thing itself.

A false sense of security is the only kind there is.

Michael Meade

Executives try to strike the right tone.

Executives in the C-suite are monitoring near term impacts and measuring long term consequences of the pandemic. In a recent study, CEOs suggested that it could well be into 2022 before their businesses recover. They are facing years of unprecedented disruption.

Some companies are generating their own news to create a sense of predictability. Walmart recently announced they would close on Thanksgiving Day, the kick-off to the holiday shopping bender in the United States. Some have questioned the timing of this announcement, four months before the national holiday.

Confidence beats certainty.

Deeply rooted in our desire for certainty is a need for reassurance. Anxiety about the future begets fear, which begets indecision. For businesses, indecision can be crippling.

Let’s be honest, trying to be certain about the future can seem disingenuous when many of us are struggling with the cold, hard reality of not knowing what will happen next. Wise leaders are wont to communicate with confidence in the absence of certainty.

Values-driven communication

The best communication strategy is based on your leadership values. These are the compass points upon which your decisions about the future are based. Regardless of what happens next, your values are unfaltering. Express these often, with conviction and clarity.

Express your faith in your people. Highlight ways that employees are creative and resilient. Amplify how suppliers have innovated paths forward.

Truth or Consequences

In persuading others, there are two types of truth — the factually true, and that which seems intuitively true. Both have to exist in order to influence others.

Certainty about anything in the future can seem dishonest, and most people will see right through it. Focus instead on what you do know, how you will make decisions, how you define your priorities.

In the absence of certainty, choose confidence.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

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