Make considered yet timely decisions
Another tension that leading in uncertain times brings, is the need to make decisions when there are fewer facts then there otherwise may have been.
This is not because the information needed is inaccessible, but rather it is simply unknown.
Below are some ideas around exercising leadership while making decisions:
- Pause to assess, then act: Taking a moment of pause to take stock of the situation, observing and noticing what’s happening around you allows leaders to respond rather than react.
This pause also allows time to gather multiple perspectives and leverage the collective intelligence from those around whose insights are often invaluable. The pause, however, needs to be balanced with the need to act swiftly, to drive decisions rather than deliberate as decisiveness contributes to cultivating steadiness in the face of the unknown.
- Know when to be directive or collective in decision making: Different situations require different leadership styles; exercising leadership involves identifying which style is most helpful and knowing how to adjust this style to the situation.
Command is necessary for preventing a problem from becoming a catastrophe, whereas leadership is needed for wicked problems, which cannot be resolved but may be ameliorated with a collective response, drawing on the collective intelligence that often allow for new and more creative way forward to emerge.
- Become comfortable with incomplete clarity in decisions: During times of uncertainty, evidence and research are constantly emerging and ever changing. Leaders can only make decisions on the information available to them at a point in time.
Exercising leadership in this space requires an ability to hold steady with some clarity rather than waiting for complete clarity (that may never come).
Adaptive Leadership helpfully suggests that exercising leadership is about observing what is happening; interpreting the observations through multiple perspectives and then intervening in the situation through a ‘safe to fail’ experiment.
Further resources to explore:
- READ In Leadership in times of crisis, Professor Keith Grint (University of Warwick) contrasts the need for leadership versus command, and points to the current need for self-isolation as an example of a wicked problem which calls for leadership
- READ How understanding Human Factors can help at work from the Clinical Excellence Commission
- WATCH and READ How to lead during COVID-19 by making intelligent decisions, showing decisiveness and being aware of the risks in waiting for clarity before making a decision
- LISTEN Dr Len Bruce from Murrumbidgee Local Health districts discusses the need for agility, to get the right balance of planning and execution, and provide purpose
- LISTEN Short podcast from the Clinical Human Factors Group with a clinical focus, suggesting tips for adapting and reacting to the current reality