How to lead in the shadow of uncertainty - Penn-Mar

How to lead in the shadow of uncertainty

Posted on February 17, 2022

By Gregory T. Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Human Services | Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Foundation
Greg Miller

Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services

When I was younger, I was much less comfortable with uncertainty. Now I realize it is just part of the leadership landscape. Trials never truly go away.

In fact, it is during challenging times that you see who your real leaders are. Good times don’t reveal as much about people in authority and leadership.

But when you encounter a pandemic — something you can’t even describe that continually sends out ripples of chaos and uncertainty — that’s when true leadership is on display and that’s what I saw manifest itself in our Penn-Mar team.

A helpful resource for me in my many years of leadership training is the book, The Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley. A pastor and incredible communicator who counsels Fortune 500 companies, Stanley address essential leadership qualities such as character, clarity, courage, and competency.

Using his theories as a backdrop, I teach how to lead in the shadow of uncertainty and how that unpredictability creates the necessary conditions of leadership.

Create clarity even when you are not certain.

When you think about it, the only thing certain is what you have already experienced. None of us can know what tomorrow will bring.

If you are willing to lean into that, it will inform your decision-making process — not necessarily around everything you know —and still create a clear vision in spite of uncertainty.

Clarity creates its own influence and momentum. Clarity is kindness. Fuzziness and indecision are not.

Whoever can create the clearest picture will emerge as the leader.

Think about the leaders you know. It has nothing to do with a person’s title. Whoever can create the clearest picture, who can communicate authenticity and transparency and not come across as knowing everything, there is your leader.

A leader helps his or her team understand that it’s OK not to have all the answers. Stanley advises leaders to pay attention to the” tension” of uncertainty, the unknown. That’s where the learning opportunity is.

If you act as if you know everything, you are jeopardizing the momentum to move forward. Your vision can’t be embraced if people doubt your credibility.

Create a spirit of flexibility.

Uncertainty will undoubtedly create chaos with your planning. But business, and life, are always in a state of change. Make sure you don’t let uncertainty derail your vision and mission. Plan in pencil. Be open to the possibility of change along the way.

Vision and mission shouldn’t necessarily be cast in stone but they also can’t be continually changing. You need to be clear on who you are and what you stand for.

For years, Penn-Mar’s mission has been transforming life into living. In many ways, that statement was more about how we were changing the people we support than how we support them as they change.

So in keeping with our new tagline, Live Courageously, we have tweaked our mission statement to be:

The mission of Penn-Mar Human Services is to support people to live courageously in pursuit of their best life.

This undertaking applies to both our team members and the people we support. We continue to transform lives while supporting courageous living for everyone in the Penn-Mar community.

As leaders of this mission, we are called to tackle the challenges together. Lately we have been in a place no living soul has experienced before.

It’s OK to say we don’t know exactly what the destination looks like but in this journey together, collectively we can roll up our sleeves and lean into the challenge.

Let us keep doing what we have shown we are capable of accomplishing everyday at Penn-Mar, even in the shadow of uncertainty.

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