Leading Through Uncertainty: Be Clear. Be Kind. Be Human.

In the whirl of this global pandemic, leaders are navigating decisions every minute to keep their companies operational and relevant. Meanwhile, they are leading their people towards an unknown future state. No known answers, just knowing we are all in this together.

“How businesses behave now will impact them far into the future, because everyone is watching.” ~Tom Kolditz, Doerr Institute for New Leaders

I have spent much of the past couple weeks coaching leaders of businesses and mission-driven organizations who are trying to answer the question “What is the next right thing?” with a human focus, balanced with business responsibility. The common surety in this uncertainty is we are in this together.

I collected insights from various respected colleagues around the world on leading through a time such as this. What it came down to were these three themes:

Be Clear.

Be Kind and Authentic.

Be Human.


Those who manage the economic impact in this way will have the potential to create more value for their organizations and become stronger than ever before.


Be Clear.

We are all adjusting to the ever-changing realities. Clear, honest communication and transparency are crucial. Misinformation and no information cause emotions and fears to rise, resulting in unnecessary chaos and often poor decisions.

“People are looking to be led, for someone else to make decisions; don’t lose sight of that.” ~ Krista Schaber-Chan, Harbinger

How should you communicate? Keep it simple, stick to the facts, speak from a place of compassion, and utilize various forms of communication to get the message across. Follow up with questions to drive clarity; engage them if you can.


Be Kind and Authentic.

“We may not be able to control the things that happen in the world around us, but we can control how we respond to these changes.” ~ Crystal Mathis, Integrative Health Coach

“Leaders who show authentic concern are trusted, even during a crisis.” Tom Kolditz continues, “I watched military leaders order people into combat, and they were trusted because soldiers knew that their lives would not be risked unnecessarily by that leader. Same in business – if tough decisions are made for the survival of a company by a leader who shows genuine sorrow and regret, people get it. If decisions are made purely for profit especially in a time like this, people sense that and will have no loyalty to the company or the leader. And why should they – there was no loyalty shown toward them.”

Connect with your people. Offer one-on-ones, and encourage your leaders to do the same. Making that effort to connect is, for many, the best support. It also gives you the chance to check their understanding while gaining the pulse of those on the front line, helping you to craft more effective and clear messages.

Be selfless, not selfish. Send food and supplies that will last, keep people on even if it means delaying recovery, provide something out of your own pocket, roll up your sleeves alongside while driving the vision. One colleague mentioned a client facing redundancies who decided to offer coaching for those remaining.


Be Human.

“Have self-compassion. These are difficult times and you are doing your best in a challenging situation.” ~ Rachel Montagu-Patterson, Board Advisor & Coach

You may make a wrong decision with the right intent. And you may make a hundred more right decisions in that same day. Allow yourself the space to forgive and accept what is. Acknowledge the discomfort. Take a deep breath and just be for a moment. Do a brief self check. Ask where am I at… honestly? What self care do I have in place? What do I need?

“Coaching can help greatly in dealing with clarifying complex emotions and stressful dynamics.” ~ Emmanuella Stamiri, Executive Coach

Talk to an experienced mentor, hire a coach. Journal. Find healthy ways to share the weight you are carrying, and to gain clarity.

“Keep your health, both physical and mental, front of mind. Stay focused on your journey. Try to stay positive and if help is needed, reach out and ask.” ~ Crystal Mathis

Maintain a daily routine and standards of personal hygiene. Wake up every morning at the same time. Get out of those PJs! Meal prep, exercise, take a lunch break or sit down for a healthy dinner without interruption. Make your bed. Video chat daily with those who bring you joy… virtual happy hour anyone? Write down something you are grateful for each night before you go to sleep.

“Do all those things that make us acceptable human beings. Your emotions and attitude will follow.” ~ General Tom Kolditz

And most importantly… Leaders be well.