Leading through uncertainty: Leading self

Leaders on leadership

Rachel Parikh

17 March 2020

The C word. Yes, coronavirus.

These are truly unprecedented circumstances. In so many ways, the disruption caused by coronavirus is a microcosm of our times: uncertain, full of leadership voids, lacking a clear path ahead, threatening our sense of control and personal freedom, and instilling feelings of mistrust and fear.

Many of us have been impacted in some way by this virus. We may not have fallen ill ourselves, but it’s possible we know people in our community who have. Ill or not, we have had to change our routines, cancel trips, postpone events, stay at home, and experience an onslaught of media coverage that challenges us to discern what we can trust. Safe to say, this is uncharted territory for most of us, a problem with no straightforward solution, no end in sight, which is creating uncertainty, unease – and paranoia – at a global scale.

It is easy to become unnerved, anxious, frustrated and even panicked. I am tempted to keep checking the news, knowing I will find more of the same. Another plane load of people quarantined. Another school closure. Another cruise ship denied entry to the port. The number of infected persons is skyrocketing globally. When, if ever, will this end? Has the interconnectedness of our world created a dynamic that is spinning out of control?

Anxiety begets anxiety; it’s contagious and creates a downward spiral. As leaders, we need to be able to counter the chaos and confusion with clarity and calm. We need to adopt practices that help us remain grounded and centered in the face of fear and uncertainty.

One of my tried and tested practices is to take time off and drive to the coast, my go-to place when the world around me seems to be falling apart. This week I took a long walk on the beach. I soaked in the gentle warmth of the late winter sun. I felt the damp sand between my toes and the cool breeze in my hair. I allowed the sound of the waves crashing on the shore to wash over me. I let go of all that I cannot predict, understand or control – and I re-connected with what I know. The sun that rises, the waves that break, the wind that blows. From this place, the virus no longer felt so scary and the uncertainty became easier to bear. I regained my clarity and calm.

What is your go-to practice for regaining clarity and calm? How do you integrate it in your life under normal circumstances? It could be a walk in the forest, a run or a swim. Or maybe a creative pursuit such as painting, dancing, journaling or sculpting. It might be having a conversation with someone you trust, a regular meditation practice, or simple breathing exercises.

To lead through uncertainty, we must have our own way to center ourselves, become clear and calm. In this period of extreme uncertainty, how are you using it and how is it impacting your wellbeing – and the wellbeing of those you lead?

The key for us, as leaders, is knowing how to shift ourselves out of fear and confusion into a place of knowing we can handle the challenges in front of us. The quality of our inner state has a direct impact on those around us who are looking for direction. Just as our fear engenders fear in others, so does our feeling of calm and safety. If we enjoy inner balance and a clear vision of the world, we’ll have a better capacity to enable others to feel calm, confident and safe.

Today, when the world seems to be falling apart under the infamous C-word, take a moment to reflect on your grounding practice. If you don’t yet have one, notice what helps you come back to yourself. And then use the extra time (perhaps freed up by this crisis) to experiment. Find what helps you to lead with greater calm and clarity through these difficult times.

Leaders’ Quest equips leaders with the capabilities to thrive in uncertain and disrupted times. The delivery of our Tools for transformation can be adapted to your context and needs.

To help you tune in with your energy sources – and keep your spirits up to show up at your best – Leaders’ Quest will be running free virtual ‘Recharge’ workshops.

These 90-minute sessions are an ideal way to connect with like-minded individuals around the world and build your energy collectively. Click here to register. Timings are registered in Singapore time zone (GMT+8).

• Monday 23 March, 5pm SGT- suitable for Europe, UK and APAC

• Tuesday 24 March, 9am SGT - suitable for the US and APAC

• Thursday 26 March, 8pm SGT - suitable for most time zones