Uncertainty is the crucible of authentic leadership

by Kate Skokan

Let’s face it folks – uncertainty is the name of the game right now. With a looming recession, rising interest rates (and sea levels!), an unpredictable future awaits.

I work with a lot of business leaders facing one consistent and pressing issue: how to communicate effectively in this uncertain landscape. And it’s not just to customers, clients, and shareholders, but their own people who are bearing the brunt of uncertainty both in their work and their personal lives.

Ignoring the elephant in the room leads to potential pitfalls in sustaining employee engagement. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, disengaged employees cost the global economy US$8.8 trillion annually.

Engagement isn’t merely feeling an attachment to a company, a role, or a colleague. It’s also how much of yourself you can bring into your workplace when dealing with family issues, ill health – or our current cost-of-living crisis. The question is, how can leaders support their people and keep them engaged when there is so much competing for finite mental (and inbox!) space? And how much do you stand to lose by not thinking about your employees as three-dimensional human beings with legitimate fears and concerns in addition to those valuable skills?

Be a human first, a company leader second.

Those leaders who don’t shy away from the unpredictable, but embrace it with open arms, show their teams they are navigating the unknown together. In the face of ambiguity, employees crave a leader who is not afraid to reveal their vulnerabilities, doubts, and share the same concerns and struggles. There are common threads that bind us all, regardless of the hierarchy. Find them and pull them – and don’t worry if you can’t find the end of the thread.

Authentic leadership is not about having all the answers but about sharing the journey with your team – triumphs and setbacks alike.

During our cost-of-living crisis, leaders can boost employee engagement by communicating transparently about financial challenges and what strategies are available to overcome these. Consider options like flexible compensation packages, salary packaging, or tips on how to make the family budget work harder. Promote work-life balance by providing resources for support but also reasons for teams to come together socially on a regular basis. Empower your people through professional development opportunities and recognise their contributions.

Creating a supportive, inclusive culture that recognises that people don’t leave their personal lives or worries at the office door can foster resilience and loyalty, driving success in uncertain times.

Underpinning this is the core premise that we are all in this together. It is part of the larger, implicit narrative that speaks to your culture and your people. And a well-crafted narrative must include your organisation’s uncharted territory – the risks and the potential pitfalls, the things you can control and the things you can’t. This openness strengthens the bond between leaders and their teams.

As we navigate through these unpredictable times, let us remember that embracing uncertainty isn’t a sign of weakness – but a testament to genuine leadership.

Originally published on Linkedin.