Lindsay LaNore: Leading in time of uncertainty

group of people in a conference room

By Lindsay LaNore, ICBA


The COVID-19 outbreak has been a time of extreme uncertainty. It has put pressure on us to meet the needs of the communities we serve, in addition to the weighted responsibility of keeping staff safe. So, what can we learn from it about leadership?

It may be obvious, but we know communication is paramount. Communicating at all levels—up, down, lateral—and via multiple channels is essential. From the outset of the pandemic, our ICBA executive management team established daily video meetings to connect. Our team also instituted weekly video meetings for all staff, which have reminded us that communication is more accurate when you can see your team’s faces.

Overcommunication is nearly impossible during uncertain times. However, keep a variety of channels in mind. Another Zoom meeting might not always be the best way of connecting. If you need to share information with your team during off hours, for example, an email may do the trick, but consider delaying its delivery until morning so your team members don’t feel the pressure to respond at all hours. Alternatively, a prerecorded video can be a great new way of engaging, as the visual of a leader is often more comforting than the written word.

It’s important to recognize that priorities have changed and will keep shifting, especially if facts are changing by the day, hour or even minute. During the first 75 days of COVID-19, our teams were reprioritizing on a moment’s notice and pulling in key staff when needed.

Remember to acknowledge the uncertainty. Show people that you are human and recognize that uncertainty is stressful. Assure them that while the situation is fluid, so is your evaluation of it. This is critical in the decision-making process and important as leaders look to optimize their team’s emotional, mental and physical health.

It’s more important than ever to keep an eye on your team. They may feel the pressure to keep pace with you and other leaders, but, in reality, they may be fried. Give them permission to slow down, take a moment and re-energize. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

The same applies to you. Self-care takes on a whole new meaning during uncertainty, especially in a health crisis like this one. It is OK to say no. Get lots of rest, do your best to get some exercise and eat well.

This may be a great time to delegate. Many leaders feel the need to shoulder the weight, but sharing the responsibility makes others stronger. Focus on what you can control, but resist the urge to micromanage!

Finally, have some fun where you can. Remind your team that a wild imagination can trigger incredible outcomes. Yes, your process may have always been a certain way, but why not take this time to change things up? In uncertain times, that may be exactly what is needed.


Lindsay LaNore (lindsay.lanore@icba.org) is ICBA group executive vice president and chief learning and experience officer

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