Leading through times of uncertainty

By Janet Kalulu Ngombalu

The current COVID-19 pandemic has placed a high toll on leaders across the board. It has stretched and tested the limit on their resilience and buoyancy during such unprecedented times. Decision making, team management, and economic flexibility have required immediate adjustments for many organizations especially considering the mitigation measures that have been put in place such as lock-downs, closure of businesses, closure of churches, schools, reduced interaction with customers for long periods amongst others. Also, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “the COVID -19 pandemic has been associated with mental health challenges related to the morbidity and mortality caused by the disease and mitigation activities, including the impact of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders”[1] . The report further indicates increased cases of depression and anxiety among leaders but also the teams, who look up to its leadership for direction.

As an emerging leader,

  1. Where do you draw direction during such unprecedented times?
  2. The whole world is in limbo, what can we do differently to endure during this crisis?
  3. Are there divine precepts that can guide leaders during crisis?  

A recent incident happened during this pandemic, that led me to question and review my leadership style through such uncertain times. I was part of a leadership team that was going on a mission to support needy people in one of the rural villages. The organizers were ready, and all arrangements had been made. However, we had a last-minute cancellation, due to a lock-down directive that was announced by the President a few hours before the scheduled travel time. This did not correspond well with the team. During this time, we all begun complaining, murmuring, protesting, grumbling thus creating a lot of chaos among the team. This reminded me of the times of Moses and the Israelite’s, when he had successfully led them out of Egypt but when they were faced with challenges, they began complaining. At that time, all Moses could do as the leader was to go back to God, while responding that, what can we do? We do only what He tells us to do, so your complaints are really against the Lord.”

I learnt that above everything, Uncertainty is unavoidable. We are not in control…we never have been! We are encouraged that trusting Jesus in the moment of uncertainty is the best position to lead from.

The key lessons that I learned about leading through uncertain times are:

  1. Effective Communication

During uncertain times, people look up to the leader for guidance. Therefore, early, and continuous communication becomes very key to avoid creating a vacuum for speculation. Besides, a key part of effective communication is feedback for we know that communication is not about speaking what we think but listening to ensure others hear what we mean (Sinek 2018)[2]. Consequently, as emerging leaders, we are called to allow the teams we influence to voice their concerns but also provide solutions during a crisis. As leaders, we must remain humble and voice the truth. This creates a win-win situation for everyone while averting a crisis within a crisis. We are guided through Colossians 4:6, where God calls to “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Therefore, as a leader, it is good to know how to communicate to everyone during such uncertain times and provide guidance with confidence. Hebrews 10:35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

Leaders should refrain from counterproductive directives of “getting back to work, or sentiments that imply “sort yourselves out” during uncertainty, and emotional stress such as during the COVID-19 Crisis.

  • Create unity and provide guidance among the team.

What I also learnt is that during times of crisis, people hold on to any emotional support system around them. This could be both positive and negative emotions. More often colleagues develop mistrust among each other, but more so towards the leaders. It is therefore important that leaders focus on uniting the team towards a common solution. As leaders, we need to reach out to the teams on a personal level to create re-assurance and openness. This gives the leader an opportunity to get common solutions that are beneficial to all and avoid the spirit of divide and rule.

We are guided through, 1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. For it is important that during these uncertain times, we as leaders must remain guided as in the book of Psalm 133:1-3 which clearly shows us the need for unity that “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore”.

  • Turn to the Lord for Guidance

At the end of the day as a leader, we must remember, that we are always under divine guidance. So, in times of certainty, take it all back to God in prayer. God, who is all knowing and ever present will enlighten and guide. Philippians 4:6-7  says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Similarly, in Psalm 32:8,  God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you”.

About the Author

Janet Kalulu Ngombalu, MA Sociology – Entrepreneurship (UON), BA Community Development (Daystar University), is a Catalyst Leader, Mentor and Trainer. Her Mission is to inspire people to live better and be more than they thought they could. Janet is committed to developing emerging leaders, through divinely ordained leadership precepts, based on the premise that “bend a tree while it’s still young”. Janet believes that the youth are the hope of the world and their future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders. She loves to speak and write to inspire humanity so that they can live in love and abundance.

Facebook:       lulu K.Janet

Twitter:            JanetNgombalu

IG:                   lulus254.ke

Linkedin:         Janet Ngombalu

Blog:                kalulujanet.com

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm

[2] https://www.scribd.com/read/381530988/Summary-of-Start-with-Why-How-Great-Leaders-Inspire-Everyone-to-Take-Action-by-Simon-Sinek

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