The Uncomfortable Space Leaders Are In And What To Do

Do you believe that you were prepared for this exact moment in time; that destiny somehow brought you to this point so that you may lead your people and organisation through extremely turbulent times?

Of late I have had interesting conversations with top leaders. They are in an uncomfortable space, to state it kindly. Millions all over are looking to them for guidance, certainty, direction and confidence. But they simply don’t have it, as they may have had in the recent past.

The reality is leaders are being pulled with great force into what seem to be opposite directions. On the one hand there is a tangible pull towards a collective empathy for the predicament of millions trapped in abject poverty; a growing sensitivity for the huge chasm between our haves and have-nots. This magnified awareness even prompted capitalists to voluntarily take salary cuts. Many leaders are wondering how to navigate their contribution towards the alleviation of such a desperate situation? How do they ensure their business strategy speaks not only to making money but also this heightened awareness and need? While leaders in organizations believed before COVID19 that their surrounding communities were important, they now know with absolute certainty that the interconnectedness is real. When we have a belief its strong, but when we know something it tends to raise our commitment to act, to do more.

Then leaders are also pulled towards shareholders that continue to hope for favorable returns. Considering the dire plight of millions one may be tempted to consider it preposterous that anyone could still inquire whether a dividend will be paid. But that is the reality. Companies have to thrive in order to be contributing corporate citizens and when they do, shareholders want – even deserve – their share.

In the midst of it all leaders are grappling with a tug of war between their heightened caring, interconnected values and the need to cut costs that include letting people go, in order to ensure the survival of their organization, so that they can remain or one day again become a healthy and contributing corporate citizen. Ultimately, some grapple with who is more important, shareholders or employees? What is more important, excessive profits or employees? Or, how can shareholders, impressive profits and employees be equally important?

Leaders catch themselves quietly wishing there was someone out there that knew the answers, or that had the luxury of time to lift their head and scan the environment; to look into the future and indicate with some certainty where all this is going.

The frightening realization is that there isn’t such a sage out there. The situation is unprecedented and unpredictable. Anyone who predicts is guessing as you and I can. This buck stops with you and other leaders like you. It is your role, even destiny to figure it out. Manage the discomfort. Take it head on.

The best way to find the answers is to counsel broadly on at least three levels.
First, with experts and advisors in your industry and organisation, in order to make the right technical decisions for your organisation.

Second, counsel with your peers from all walks of life, so that a collective leadership intelligence can emerge regarding how to deal with societal polarities that are pulling you in different directions.

And third, make sure you counsel with a safe sound board where you offload and together think through – out loud – all the counseling that’s going on. These should be the kind of sessions where you are reminded of leadership, that it is your first profession; where you are reminded of your best self and how to keep that part of you at a conscious level. Crisis situations have a tendency of sucking leaders into a one dimensional technical and functional domain, when being a leader is the overarching role that includes technical as one of several components of it.

During these times you will have to draw at least the following from your well of leadership skills and attributes:

  1. The ability to COUNSEL TOGETHER extensively and collaboratively in order to arrive at the answers, in flight.
  2. The ability to LISTEN DEEPLY.
  3. The HUMILITY and strength to make yourself vulnerable and admit you don’t have the answers.
  4. LISTENING TO INSTINCT, gut feel. The ability to hear and obey that quiet voice of inspiration we often refer to as instinct, gut feel. A certain CONFIDENCE of knowing that you deserve the impressions that come to you because of steps 1-3
  5. The COURAGE to make decisions, right or wrong – hopefully more right. But decisions must be made and some will have to be bold

There will certainly be more required of you. You will have to somehow fall in love with uncertainty, or at least appreciate it; you will have to adopt technology that advances your cause at an increased pace; you will have to become a trust builder like never before, while it will be more difficult than ever before. Building trust in these times is harder, because we as leaders are used to “providing certainty” and “being reliable” as some of the building blocks. The above five points will go a long way towards building, maintaining or deepening that trust.

In short, you and those you lead – who in turn lead others – will have to THINK and LEAD on a whole new level. There are digital platforms like ThinkLead® that can help. It is a modern Leadership Ecosystem to help leaders counsel with peers in a broader community and inside their organisation. It is a platform that attempts to create an ever evolving collective leadership intelligence (LQ) for yourself, your team, your organisation and society at large. If you haven’t encountered it before we would be honored to demonstrate to you.

When all the counseling, absorbing, sound boarding and inspiration is said and done, you need to lead from where you stand; you have to make the decisions so that movement happens. Without movement we die, organizations die. Trust that you were prepared for this exact moment and lead with confidence

About ThinkLead®

It is a digital Leadership Ecosystem in which you immerse your leaders so that they learn to THINK and LEAD at an unprecedented level…faster; so that they can build authentic character by changing behavior faster, through their Personal Leadership Development Plan inside I-LEAD that sends regular reminders; so that they can act and align with their team, organization and environment within the WE-LEAD space; so that they can engage the ever growing, relevant and interactive resource library inside the I-LEARN space, in order to Re-Learn and THINK at an unprecedented level.

If you are an individual leader that wants to change, grow and advance faster, let us know and we will welcome you into the ThinkLead®Leadership Ecosystem.

If you represent an organization and the above makes sense, lets talk…on Zoom.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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