Leaders Stand in the Gap of Uncertainty to Help Others Across

Far too many of us can also relate to working for managers who wielded their title and position authority as their only levers for leading. These managers caused me to question the likelihood of my contributing anything of value to the corporate mission. To hear their names, even years later, leaves me feeling drained and conjures emotions of lacking. My concerns were reinforced every time they tried to make me do something, because…well…they were in charge and the conversation was supposed to end there.

When it was my turn to lead, I had questions of my own: What type of leader would I be? Would I have the “it that seemed to sift the effective from the not so effective leaders of my past? Could I learn to lead? Or, is it true that leaders are not made but born and shipped in from a distant planet?

Many people aspire to leadership positions because of the big bonuses, nice clothes and public accolades. I was no different. But a lot of work and responsibility precede the shiny watches and flattering headlines. By evaluating my personal journey and working closely with hundreds of executives, I have seen successful leaders embrace three primary responsibilities. Many receive no fanfare; providing confidence often without having full certainty themselves.

  1. Effective leaders paint a clear pictures of success. Every organization regardless of size or mission needs a vision of what winning looks like. Without clarity, followers meander aimlessly executing well-intentioned tasks not knowing whether they are truly helping the organization be successful. Effective leaders create a tangible vision that coveys how everyone contributes to achieving the mission.
  1. Productive leaders remove barriers. Barriers can be physical (a person, situation or thing blocking success), financial (insufficient funding of key projects or a misallocation of scarce resources) or informational (antiquated training, outdated ideas or flawed analysis inhibiting success). Productive leaders spend their time minimizing or totally removing barriers.
  1. True leaders inspire action. Let’s face it, nothing happens until something happens. While there are examples of short-term results coming from dictates and demands, enduring results come from sustained employee or follower engagement. The more effective leaders tap into organizational beliefs and desires for success. True leaders inspire others to want to take action.

I am convinced that every success and failure begins and ends with leadership. Harry Truman was onto something when he proclaimed, The Buck Stops Here! Widespread uncertainty marks a failure of leadership. It is always tempting for leaders to busy themselves with management activities (measure this, track that; evaluate performance versus budgets). Management activities are quite useful, but should never be confused for leadership – and they often are.

Leaders are more effective when they dedicate themselves to the three responsibilities that only they can fulfill. Their organizations will thrive and appreciate their willingness to stand in the gap of uncertainty to help others across.

Galen’s new book Leadership Residue: A Leadership Fable and Leadership Residue: Writings on the Wall focus on creating inspiration that will remain even after the leader is gone is available on Amazon.

6 Things to Do When You Don't Have a Clue

Perhaps you convinced them you were ready, or maybe someone convinced you. Either way, you’re in a new job or staring at a new project and don’t have the slightest clue where to start. You feel stupid on the inside and you wonder how badly it’s showing on the outside. Everyone’s looking to you for direction. Now what?

A Story of Not Knowing

“I know one thing, that I know nothing”-Socrates

I recently conducted a workshop on trust and strategic partnership for a group of Nigerian leaders. On paper, this was right up my alley. Trust and authenticity is my gig. I’ve lived the world of strategic partnerships. But after a few minutes listening to their stories, I realized I didn’t have a clue about building trust in their world: 6pm curfews that caused premature closings of universities and businesses; corruption and bribes; lack of tracking and systems. I was not in a position to teach, but only to help in their exploration.

I confessed.

“I’ve never been to Africa. The trust concerns you’ve shared are deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. I can’t tell you what to do to fix these issues. But like you, I am an experienced business person who cares deeply about trust and knows something it. Like you, I am a parent who longs for a better future for our children. Like you, I want to make Nigeria better. I am humbled to be your guide today in this exploration.

We worked together to build a plan.

6 Things To Do When You Don’t Have a Clue

1. Chill

It’s likely that your panic is not showing as much as you think. Breathe. People will respect that you don’t have all the answers, but they won’t follow a basket case. Show up poised and confident.

2. Trust your gut

You likely know way more than you think. As Michael Hyatt suggests just doing the next right thing. You’re in the position for a reason, trust that it wasn’t an accident. Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts and make some bold moves as needed.

3. Admit what you don’t know and articulate what you do

Chances are they already know what you don’t know. Faking it will just reduce your credibility. Begin with confident humility. Admit what you don’t know, but reassure them with what you do bring to the game.

4. Surround yourself with trusted advisors

Somebody around there knows what they’re doing. And all those somebodies put together have an arsenal of the knowledge you need. Tapping into their expertise creates engagement and gets you out of the gate quickly.

5. Do your homework

Get as smart as you can as fast as you can. Research best practices. Study failures. Dig deep. Nothing beats experience, but if you don’t have much, leverage someone elses.

6. Look the part

This one’s not vital, but a bit like chicken soup, it can’t hurt. If you’re not feeling overwhelmingly confident at least look good. It just might increase your confidence.

6 Things to Do When You Don’t Have a Clue

Perhaps you convinced them you were ready, or maybe someone convinced you. Either way, you’re in a new job or staring at a new project and don’t have the slightest clue where to start. You feel stupid on the inside and you wonder how badly it’s showing on the outside. Everyone’s looking to you for direction. Now what?

A Story of Not Knowing

“I know one thing, that I know nothing”-Socrates

I recently conducted a workshop on trust and strategic partnership for a group of Nigerian leaders. On paper, this was right up my alley. Trust and authenticity is my gig. I’ve lived the world of strategic partnerships. But after a few minutes listening to their stories, I realized I didn’t have a clue about building trust in their world: 6pm curfews that caused premature closings of universities and businesses; corruption and bribes; lack of tracking and systems. I was not in a position to teach, but only to help in their exploration.

I confessed.

“I’ve never been to Africa. The trust concerns you’ve shared are deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. I can’t tell you what to do to fix these issues. But like you, I am an experienced business person who cares deeply about trust and knows something it. Like you, I am a parent who longs for a better future for our children. Like you, I want to make Nigeria better. I am humbled to be your guide today in this exploration.

We worked together to build a plan.

6 Things To Do When You Don’t Have a Clue

1. Chill

It’s likely that your panic is not showing as much as you think. Breathe. People will respect that you don’t have all the answers, but they won’t follow a basket case. Show up poised and confident.

2. Trust your gut

You likely know way more than you think. As Michael Hyatt suggests just doing the next right thing. You’re in the position for a reason, trust that it wasn’t an accident. Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts and make some bold moves as needed.

3. Admit what you don’t know and articulate what you do

Chances are they already know what you don’t know. Faking it will just reduce your credibility. Begin with confident humility. Admit what you don’t know, but reassure them with what you do bring to the game.

4. Surround yourself with trusted advisors

Somebody around there knows what they’re doing. And all those somebodies put together have an arsenal of the knowledge you need. Tapping into their expertise creates engagement and gets you out of the gate quickly.

5. Do your homework

Get as smart as you can as fast as you can. Research best practices. Study failures. Dig deep. Nothing beats experience, but if you don’t have much, leverage someone elses.

6. Look the part

This one’s not vital, but a bit like chicken soup, it can’t hurt. If you’re not feeling overwhelmingly confident at least look good. It just might increase your confidence.