The leaders of the future must know how to guide uncertainty.
Let’s start with certainty first :
There is no “new normality” because the concept of normal from Latin already recalls rectitude, exactness, regularity. Starting from its meaning, we can all agree that we do not believe that we will live under the banner of the “new normal”.
The leader of the future, cannot and cannot be “one man in command”, with his certainties and his visions. The pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of a corporate organizational system, namely its complexity and the sustainability of the business itself, and forced a sudden acceleration that has changed the paradigms of reality: new technologies, sustainability, environments, spaces, new time management, communication, family-work contamination. With smart working, we went directly inside people’s homes, without asking for permission!
We cannot even say that something will return to the way it was before, this is also implausible. It is foolish for any organization, of any size, to assume that it will return to a state of stability and clarity, and any living corporate executive is now in an unprecedented context, which they have never experienced before, and must prepare for disruption and sudden change.
In the business world, leaders (or CEOs) are trained to deal with crises, but usually within a series of predictable scenarios.
Because we quickly entered digital with an extraordinary acceleration:
Without the pandemic, it would have taken at least 5 years to achieve the results that were obtained in the last year. Digital is made up of technologies, and the speed with which technology changes is impressive. We must therefore get used to the fact that uncertainty will become the operative norm of this new historical period of humanity.
We have entered the “Infosphere”, an elegant term to indicate the new world we live in, invented by our Italian philosopher Luciano Floridi, author of beautiful books including – “Thinking the Infosphere. Philosophy as conceptual design ”
As the author describes well, the Infosphere is an environment in which the distinction between real and virtual is demolished, in which analogue and digital merge, merge, integrate, and reinforce each other, up to the point of coining another neologism – ONLIFE.
So, as I said, let’s avoid talking about “new normal”. Better to say that we will live in a “New context”, because not only people’s habits have changed, but people themselves have changed, organizations have changed because people work and collaborate differently. There will be people who unfortunately will not be able to return to the field and others who will instead enter because new people will create new organizations different from the previous ones.
We could no longer play the same league because the fields (markets) also change, the rules change (because the acceleration to digital has profoundly changed habits), players have changed.
In addition to the consequences that the pandemic will produce for years to come, we must not forget about natural disasters, global warming, the rise of artificial intelligence. The future therefore can only be uncertain, and this applies to small, medium, and large companies, large organizations.
In times of uncertainty, therefore, it is important to have competent leaders that companies can rely on to manage their teams. However, if you are in this role and you feel like you are at a crossroads, in a dead-end, believe me, you are not alone, you are in good company.
Who will have the task and responsibility of leading a completely different context, an agile leader, who has the aptitude to look not only in the short term but above all in the long term, where there are no certainties, so he must know how to be agile and be aware of being able to manage uncertainty, determined by factors that do not necessarily have to be another pandemic or a war.
Any leadership of any organization, of any size, must be able to guide, live and manage uncertainty, in a natural way, as a pre-requisite of his time. This leads to being agile in change and resilient in structural changes such as those that the pandemic has created.
But how can we be strong in uncertainty:
• First: DO NOT COMMAND, but driving, listening, and not being listened to, changing your attitude immediately. Difficult yes, very much, but unequivocal and indispensable.
• Take breaks. The anxiety of uncertainty leads you to think that you never do enough, but be careful: to make decisions and be reactive, you cannot always go to a thousand, because by doing so you will never be lucid. Take an example and study the great champions and sports champions, how they train and how they manage to achieve their goals, but above all, study those that last over time, how they know how to manage the years of their commitments and their successes: they never go a thousand and always take regenerative breaks to activate new stimuli.
• Be there, let your team see you, do not hide in your office, walk among them, visit the departments, often connected with remote offices. Digital helps you to meet all people at any time: my advice is to do it often, even to celebrate a birthday, an anniversary, good news. In short: let yourself be seen, let yourself be heard, get used to one-to-one interviews (on this topic I recommend the One-To-One manual by Robertson …)
• Keep communication constant, declare that you are willing to talk, always leave the door of your study open (metaphorically), or stay as little as possible.
• Be aware that we cannot predict what will happen, but we can prepare for it. Leaders must therefore immediately implement a total change of approach and vision
• Be flexible and open to new ideas, surrounded by people who do not think like you, relate to people and leaders who do not do the same job as you (you would end up talking and thinking as before). Be curious and use social media and books to find a mentor – we all need a mentor
• Change the approach of roles for tasks of individual people to roles for team/company objectives: Get your team to be focused on the goal and not on the task. If you can, mentally delete the Top Down organization chart
• Be decisive, or rather be a decision-maker, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You must have the strength to accept that you can make mistakes and fail, and communicate this culture transparently to all people in the organization, thus eliminating the fear of making mistakes throughout the organization.
• Learn from mistakes and failures to grasp the wrong things, without shifting the responsibility to individuals (unless there are serious objective situations of damage) but to the idea, and rebuilding it together, better still with the same people, or looking for external stakeholders
• Get help, ask for help: a Leader is not the only one feeling anxious about uncertainty, we cannot be alone, or do everything alone. We must have the strength to ask for help not only when things go wrong, indeed it is necessary to have a critical confrontation when things go well because safety leads to superficial errors and is dictated by “everything is going well”. Remember that the greatest mountaineering or diving tragedies are related to the most experienced people! I get help from a psychologist because alone I can’t do it: I have two eyes and two ears, and sometimes I listen and look with what my beliefs are and I make a mistake.
• Be surrounded by people who don’t think like you, who are focused on the goal and not on the task, who know very well what their role (and not their task) is.
• Eliminate homework: they create alibis and silos which are the factors most resistant to any change, even in the finance area
• Immerse yourself in the lower strata of the organization, listen to the voice and thoughts of those at the forefront of production, and in contact with customers
• Train to be useful to the colleague: your colleague’s job depends on yours. Periodically bring people from more distant departments to meet and discuss (an example: marketing people with developers, administration people with customer care), so that the most distant areas of the business process do not remain distant, divided by the individual points of the process. Eliminate red tape or unnecessary approval process chain through technology, making decisions easier
• Live on feedback, without those you can’t have your KPIs, that make you improve and grow. You can’t measure or judge your organization by results if you don’t get naked first. Get used to asking the questions, the angular ones, and not expecting the right answers: those instill too much confidence.
Uncertainty can indeed undermine and condition the actions of a leader, but the fear of making a wrong decision can lead to not making decisions, which leads to immobility, which is perhaps the only thing that cannot be done. in this historical period.
When going through big changes it makes sense to have a leader who can help prepare for the change. This means that not only can they change to adapt to the current situation, but they can also think ahead and anticipate what might happen.
For this, you need to be a chameleon Leader
We all know this animal for how it knows how to adapt to the moment, to the world around it. Being a leadership chameleon also means being flexible. Like the bamboo cane that bends during hurricanes and storms while maintaining stability.
I am pleased to quote another famous Italian: Macchiavelli, keeping his words in mind
“Anyone who desires constant success must change his conduct with the times”.