Leading Through Adversity

September 8, 2023

One of the military acronyms we lived by in combat was VUCA - Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.  It’s certainly relevant to the current global challenges we are facing on the home-front with COVID-19.  The situation is changing rapidly and our days are filled with the unknown. The unknown always creates challenges and increases Friction.  

von Clausewitz describes Friction as the force that makes the apparently easy so difficult and the difficult seemingly impossible.  The solution?  Leadership.  

Below are a few quick tips for leaders to focus on as we attack the challenge ahead and lead through adversity.  

Set The PaceYou must be the source of calm for your team

Set the conditions for your team to be successful.  In times of uncertainty, there is often a flurry of misinformation, bad data, gossip, and rumors.  Help your team eliminate the ‘noise’ by focusing on the facts – what you know to be true and what gaps remain unanswered.  Do not add to the panic.  Instead, help your team focus on the essential tasks by identifying the facts and gathering proper intelligence to formulate an actionable plan through the friction.    

Empower Your Small Unit LeadersReal leaders want high standards

In a VUCA environment, senior leaders tend to tighten their grip and micromanage every aspect.  Doing so stifles innovation and severely limits organizational adaptability.  Instead, have the Command Team determine the centralized vision of what needs to happen, communicate that message and intent to your team, and empower your small unit leaders to develop a course of action and accomplish the plan.  

Many of your leaders want to prove their worth and ability to lead through the challenges.  They recognize that this is their time to lead and be an asset to the organization.  Trust them and empower them to do so.  It will increase their buy-in, improve the adaptability of the organization, and develop the decision-making skills of your small unit leaders under tough conditions.  

CommunicateTransparent and effective communication builds trust

Communication is one of the first failures in the face of friction and adversity.  When communication fails, assumptions will take over - resulting in increased friction and mission failure.  The organization that can adapt the fastest to the situation will have a significant advantage, and proper communication improves adaptability.  

The evolving information regarding COVID-19 is creating many factors that are impacting your daily routines and flows of communication.  It will force you to get uncomfortable and adapt, but you will benefit from improved communication in the long run.  Leaders need to dig into the details, over-communicate, and ensure their message is clearly received.  

One of my favorite tools to drive alignment and clarity of the message is the ‘Five W’s & brief back’.  Provide the team with concise details of the plan through the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How format.  Prior to concluding any meeting, ask specific individuals to ‘brief back’ key areas of the plan to ensure there is clarity of the message and mission.  

While a VUCA environment can make you, and those closest to you, uncomfortable for a while, you can still be successful if you attack the challenges and lead the way.   

Adapt.  Win.  

Ready to Lead?

Prepare to roll up your sleeves.

Copyright 2024 The Iron Leader
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram