Leading through uncertainty

Leaders by Nature

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2018 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. This involves 20 free events, workshops and training sessions along with thought leadership blog content such as this.

Thanks to our Official Partner and Sponsors – The West Midlands Combined Authority, Aston University, South and City College Birmingham and Curium Solutions - all events are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more here.

The context of uncertainty

We live and work in a time of uncertainty, largely driven by fast-paced technological change. In extensive interviews with CEOs for my forthcoming book Leading through uncertainty, many of them felt that things had always been uncertain but the rapid pace of change amplifies and increases it.

At times the pace of change leaves people feeling exposed, uneasy and uncomfortable. New ways of working and new styles of leadership are required to thrive in a global economy. Competition and hierarchy need to be replaced by collaboration and shared leadership. This involves relating to others as human beings and working together. We’re mostly not trained to do that, even though we think we are.

Emotional resilience

Uncertainty is uncomfortable.

It is something to be embraced rather than feared, but it requires a shift in thinking and behaviour. Uncertainty requires courage to have a go without knowing how things will work out. It is now a key part of everyday working life, and we need to equip leaders to be more comfortable with not having all the answers.

Uncertainty generates polarised views, because by its very nature, there is no one right answer in uncertainty. This leads to heightened tension in teams and emotions that we must face head on and accept as being part of the process. Leaders need to find a way to ease the mental and emotional load, for themselves as well as their team and to develop more finely-tuned inter-relational skills so that we can collaborate more effectively. We are asking a lot of leaders, and investment in people is fundamental to business success.

Conscious leadership

In the course of my work as a strategic leadership advisor and executive coach, many of my clients feel the pressure of uncertainty and a high workload. They strive to create certainty in a world full of unknowns. They are operating under stress conditions which generates stress behaviours. Much of this is unconscious. Every decision we make and every thought, act and word has an impact. It is the responsibility of leaders at all levels within every organisation to increase their self-awareness so they can consciously create a sustainable future that is life-enhancing for all. That’s a big ask.

It requires us to move from short-term targets and blinkered thinking, to being more curious, more strategic, and to consider the long-term impact of the decisions we make – on ourselves, each other, business, society and the environment.

Human connection

In a recent podcast interview with Paul Faulkner, CEO of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, I asked him what kept him awake at night. Paul instantly replied: “People. I care and worry about the people. I want to make sure people feel valued, are motivated and enjoy what they are doing.”

The unintended consequences of being connected to technology mean that we are more emotionally and physically disconnected than ever before. We need to find new ways to engage, inspire and influence people, many of whom feel ground down under pressure.

What do horses teach us about leadership and uncertainty?

Whilst my focus is business and leadership, my methodologies are unconventional. I often bring clients to work with my herd of 5 horses. Horses require a leader who is clear, purposeful and builds a strong relationship based on trust and mutual respect. They want to come with you through free will rather than force. Just like people. As a prey animal, their world is built on uncertainty. Their purpose is to survive. Horses respond based on your non-verbal communication which includes your emotions, thoughts, intentions and much more. If you are clear, compelling and connected, the horses go with you. If not, they refuse to move, providing a chance to be curious about what is happening and find new ways to lead more effectively.

The results are profound and life-changing. Clients become more self-aware. They quickly discover where their strengths are, as well as where they get derailed, and they learn to support each other better as a team without the frustration that typically comes from different approaches. Many of my clients are promoted within a few months once they make subtle shifts in behaviour and teams achieve objectives that they previously thought were impossible.

The uncertainty of our time is here to stay. Those who thrive in business will learn to embrace it and equip their people with the skills to lead through it with more ease. The development of people at all levels in organisations is key to the future of business.

Jude Jennison from Leaders by Nature is the secret weapon global brands call on to help tackle the leadership issues that cripple productivity, sabotage teamwork and hold companies back. Her methods are unconventional, yet hugely successful. One of her clients turned a loss-making business into a profitable one in just 3 months, with a return on investment of 4,000% after working with her for just one day.

Jude’s senior leadership experience includes 16 years at IBM where she managed a budget of $1billion and led UK, European and global teams. She is renowned for challenging the status quo. Jude is a leadership author, an international speaker and pioneer of Leadership with Horses, a way of working with horses to highlight unconscious leadership behaviours.

To find out more, contact Jude Jennison via email: jude@judejennison.com or telephone 07584 248822.

Listen to Jude's podcast on Leading Through Uncertainty, featuring Chamber chief executive Paul Faulkner - click here.