Guest Column: Leading in the “cone of uncertainty”

Editor’s Note: Leadership and executive coach and Louisiana native Jennifer Ledet delivered the keynote address at Rendezvous South 2021 earlier this May in Lake Charles, La.

Growing up in south Louisiana, I’ve grown used to seeing the “spaghetti models” – those weather maps that depict all the different possibilities for where a hurricane could make landfall. Naturally, storms can wobble just before they come ashore, rendering the areas surrounding the predicted landfall the “cone of uncertainty.”

I think it’s safe to say that many of us feel like we’ve been living in the “cone of uncertainty” in the past year or so, regardless of where you’re geographically located.

Leading during any type of turbulence is a challenge for sure, but this experience is like none other. We’re all tired of doing the remote work/back to the office merry-go-round, but I hate to break it to you: The unpredictability is not over yet.

In the same way that we prepare for a hurricane that may or may not come our way, we can lead not only ourselves, but also our teams.

Being a leader is less about your title and more about your influence. So, regardless of your position, I’d like you to think about who you will be and how you’ll show up for your team, your colleagues, and those you love.

Here are a few points to ponder on how you can be a more effective leader:

Be informed.

If there’s a possibility that a hurricane could come my way, I want to stay informed, but it won’t do any good to sit in front of the TV all day watching Jim Cantore on the Weather Channel.

In the same way, as a leader, you must put some boundaries between you and the noise of those ‘negative Nellies.’

Instead, use this time to invest in your own development. Just because you’ve made it to a lofty leadership position doesn’t mean you’re finished growing.

I know it’s tempting to put development on the back burner during these crazy times, but you need to invest in developing yourself and your team, now more than ever.

All leadership begins with self-leadership.

Hire a coach, take the course, or join a mastermind group, but get crystal clear on your greatest strengths and contributions to the organization (and those of team members). Figure out your core values and continue to grow, learn, and develop your self-awareness.

Be responsible

When a storm is coming, I can’t just passively sit and wait for someone else to usher me along a path or rescue me. I need to “storm prep,” to have a plan, and to be proactive.

None of us chose to go through many of these experiences, but you probably have way more choice in how you respond to this storm than you realized. When you take responsibility, you don’t wait for someone to empower you.

Realize that you are who you’ve been waiting for.

Being responsible means taking charge of how you communicate and the energy with which you engage with others. As the leader, you need to be the thermostat rather than the thermometer. You set the tone, the energy, the vibe for the team.

Be connected.

With every major storm in our area, we see neighbors checking on neighbors. People take in family members to help them get through the crisis.

Check in with your leader, team members, customers, and vendors. Be helpful, a role model, or a mentor to others. This is about building trust. Know that people will remember your actions during this crisis for a long time. Always look for ways to focus less on “me” and more on “we.”

Be resilient. 

Leadership right now reminds me of some old oak trees I saw growing in Grand Isle, La. (my happy place). Those oak trees had been through more hurricanes than anybody could count, and they’d been blown by storm winds for so long that they began to grow in the direction that the wind had blown them.

I think we can take a lesson from those trees. Those trees didn’t break, primarily because they didn’t fight against the storms. They were flexible and bent with the wind. They weren’t uprooted because they had a strong root system and a strong foundation.

As leaders, the more we’re rooted in our authenticity and strengths, and learn to adapt and grow, the more resilient and the stronger we’ll become.

Jennifer Ledet, CSP, SPHR, is a speaker, facilitator, coach, and author who works with individual leaders and leadership teams–virtually and in person—who are ready, as she puts it, “to roll up their sleeves, dial down their egos, and play full out.” To learn more, visit www.JenniferLedet.com.

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