How To Lead Effectively In Uncertain Times

We are certainly living in times of uncertainty.  Covid 19 has challenged us to move our accepted status quo, and prolonged Brexit discussions in the UK continually add to the financial risks of running businesses. We embrace new goals, new strategies and potentially new leaders as we are faced with a mountain of change as we strive to lead our businesses forward.

‘uncertainty refers to situations in which it is difficult to ascertain risk levels: Not only do you not know what will happen, you also don’t know how likely each outcome is. For example, how much am I really at risk compared to others in my group? People of my age? People where I live? People, who behave like me?’ (

We ask ourselves these questions as we gaze at the future – predicting as best we can what our industry will be, or where we will take and our businesses in 2023.

Uncertainty generates a range of emotions, polarises opinions and can lead to relationships breaking down. It requires great skill and flexibility to lead through uncertainty. (

We, therefore, need to come up with new ideas that can help build and foster relationships whilst minimising the risks that these times of uncertainty bring,

How has this period of forced uncertainty challenged or changed the way you lead your organization?

We struggle with our own internal mental noise and this can impair our cognitive ability to process information. Our staff want to know that we care for them, but they too are making sense of the extra ‘noise’ that the system is generating.

Our communication style needs to alter –  by using messages that are short, loaded with empathy and delivered via a trusted network ( We should remember to communicate with the individual in a manner that is appropriate for that individual relationship at that time.

We need to draw a deep breath and deliver extra clarity in our thinking. Not just in our direction but how we get to an outcome. A client said to me that getting from A to E is not generally the issue, but what is is explaining what the interim B, C and D steps are.

Our decision-making process needs to be led by clarity. It is too easy to resort to direction – but we forget the strength of the company and their individual employees.

How can we lead change and innovation in this time of uncertainty?

It is likely that the coffee machine or water cooler moments have gone. The conversations that oil the business have stopped as we witness the transformation to a business-led agenda in our regular Zoom or Teams with little small talk. We score high on achieving the meeting objectives, but perhaps score low in enabling innovation, ideas and humanity.

Perhaps we need to park the tasks for one moment and allow contribution from those around us. As senior leaders, we can gain an advantage not just through task achievement but also through creating a wider understanding of ideas available to us.

“We gauge our success not on one, but on five, bottom lines. That won’t change. Sustaining our business, brands, people, community and the planet will remain at the core of how we operate. In these times, I think the opportunity for us is to make sure people understand our purpose and the benefits that come from running a business that focuses on more than profit.” – Kevin Cleary, CEO, Clif Bar & Co. (

What is the golden bullet on how we can operate in 2021?

Our success in 2021 will come from a blended understanding and acceptance that change will be here for some time – as indeed will Covid 19. We need to actively engage with those around us, helping them to explore in their own risk mitigation, as well as being agents of change in our own rights.

Our success in 2021 will come from a clear focus on a realistic exit. Brexit will play an impact on our businesses but are you prepared for the outcome that that will bring us in London and the rest of the UK, (and Europe).

The consequences of the financial packages that central government have created will be with us for some time – so we need to adapt now to the difficult times and build our onward strategies.




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