Uncertainty.  This seems to be the theme of 2020 before the year has even really begun!  How do leaders design their strategies for the year ahead, never mind approach budget plans and create projections for the future when we simply do not know what the next year holds for the UK?

Strong, successful leaders should be able to steer companies through this uncertain time and continue to deliver in the same way as they would when the future is secure, profits are high and stakeholders are happy – but that is easier said than done, so how do leaders lead in uncertain times?

I recently reread an article I’d saved by Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr. the author of From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership.  In it he said “By knowing myself and my values, being committed to balance and having true self-confidence and genuine humility, I can far more easily make decisions, no matter if I'm facing a crisis or an opportunity.”  I am an avid supporter of Value-Based Leadership as an approach to both personal and business growth, and this quote reminded me that its principles are a great first step when leaders are faced with uncertainty.

An organisation with clearly defined values, a well-documented purpose and an easily articulated ethos is one that can navigate any crisis.  Value-Based Leadership is a way of making decisions and evaluating your own and your team’s performance based on your organisation’s values rather than focusing entirely on metrics and milestones.

In times of uncertainty and change, the goal posts may be constantly changing, but a company’s values should stay constant.  As teams are asked to adapt to new situations, and learn new things, performance criteria will need to adapt too.  By using a Value-Based approach, not only are you creating a supportive and flexible company culture, but you are enabling feedback and growth measurement to continue through change and uncertainty.

The first principle of Value-Based Leadership is self-reflection.  In order to lead others successfully, you need to be self-aware and really understand what your company’s values are and what matters most.  Taking stock of your own position and knowing what you and your organisation stand for, makes it much easier to know what to do in any situation.

But Value-Based Leadership is not about acting blindly according to your own viewpoint. The second principle is balance - in other words, being able to gain a full understanding of a situation by seeing it from other people’s perspectives and opinions. Balance means approaching situations with an open mind and engaging with your team members frequently and authentically.

The third principle is about self-belief and confidence.  You need to recognise your strengths and weaknesses and continuously strive to improve.  This does not mean that arrogance is a coveted trait in a successful leader.  In fact, the fourth principle is genuine humility.  You should treat each person you encounter with the same respect you would like to be treated with.  Humility is also about knowing that you do not have all of the answers, or all of the time, and knowing when to ask for help and look outside for support.  That’s a great 2020 goal for any leader in any organisation.

Here are Connect Three’s top tips for leading your organisation through an uncertain year:

1. Keep Talking
Silence is unlikely to be interpreted as a good thing by your colleagues, customers or suppliers!  You should communicate often - reinforcing clearly, and repeatedly what your plans are, keeping your teams in the loop whenever things change and letting them know what your response will be.

2. Enable Others to Lead
Help develop the skills of other leaders, potential leaders & possible superstars in your organisations now, so that they are ready to step up when you need them to.  Essential Leadership skills courses are available through Scottish Enterprise and are designed to do just that.

3. Don’t stop Planning
You need to keep planning for the long and short term of your organisation and your team. Topics like personal development and appraisals may be the last thing on your list when facing a crisis, but culture and morale will suffer if you maintain your focus on the immediate future.

4. Stay Engaged
Great leaders know that they don’t have all of the answers.  They are confident that they have surrounded themselves with people capable of more than just freeing up their managers’ time.  Whether your organisation is doing well, or struggling, you hired a great team, so stay engaged with them, ask questions and be open to hearing the answers.