Leading in Overwhelming Uncertainty

Praise crazy. Praise sad. Praise the path on which we’re led. ~Joy Harjo

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Joy Harjo’s poem “Praise the Rain” makes space to appreciate all the nuances of our lives. Even overwhelming uncertainty. That’s the best way I know how to describe the world these days. As we all know, what we once considered normalcy has been turned on end and seems to change from hour to hour. My contemplation of overwhelming uncertainty has led me right back to bold grace. If ever there was a time that bold grace was needed, I think it’s now. So, how can I lead with bold grace in my own small way through this pandemic?

Be patient.

Be patient with others, with yourself, with the process, and try to empathize. Dealing with COVID-19 is challenging by itself. Pile on other life issues and it can push people to the edge. Remember, we all have challenges in addition to the pandemic.

Be flexible.

I know I put clients on timelines and do my best to hold both their feet and my own to the fire to keep things moving forward. Now is not the time to hold others accountable to schedules or budgets. We just have to be flexible and ride this out together.

Pause and be grateful.

While it may feel as if we’re swirling in chaos, take a moment to pause and take in the sunshine. Write down even three things for which you are grateful, right now. Don’t underestimate the power of recognizing abundance. I’m certainly not suggesting that we trivialize the seriousness of our current circumstance, but that we try to keep from letting it consume us or those we are leading.

Be honest.

If you are in a leadership position, don’t sugar-coat or make false promises. What people need is straightforward, honest information.

Communicate often.

That can apply both professionally and personally. Not only are people more isolated but the combination of social distancing and added stress could stretch our mental wellness. Communicate to encourage and to inform. Daily virtual meetings or check-ins could have a significant impact. Even knowing that nothing has changed is critical during a time of uncertainty.

Just sit together in the dark.

Krista Tippett from the On Being Project shared, “The meaning of the Inuit word ‘qarrstiluni’ conjures up a striking image: ‘sitting together in the dark, waiting for something to happen.’ Teju Cole shares the word in his On Being conversation.” That image describes how I feel. Like we are all sitting together in the dark, waiting for something to happen. Many times when people are in the midst of challenging life situations, they need someone to just sit with them. Not to fix the problem, or list all of the “at least it’s not…” scenarios they can. We just need to sit together in the dark, and that can even mean sitting together virtually.

As Joy Harjo penned, “Praise crazy. Praise sad. Praise the path on which we’re led.” That sounds like leading with bold grace.

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