Leaders are often expected to have all the answers. If you don’t have the answer to a leadership challenge, you may feel inadequate, uncertain and vulnerable. None of these emotions feels good, and they are often frowned upon in the workplace — or so you may have been taught.
Are you really never supposed to experience uncertainty as a leader, though? You are a human being and hard-wired for struggle — stuff happens. You experience all of the good, bad, and ugly that comes with being a human.
How do you work then with uncertainty and vulnerability while being a leader? Follow these five steps:
1. Embrace uncertainty and vulnerability
Leaders often try to bury their uncertainty. This strategy of burying and numbing may work for a while, that is until it shows up as illness, ulcers or worse. Why do you think some people in leadership roles are so stressed, obese and addicted? It is because feelings get buried and numbed.
The interesting thing about the numbing strategy is that when you numb your “bad” feelings such as uncertainty, vulnerability, doubt and fear, you are also numbing your “good” feelings of joy, peace and gratitude.
2. Stay present
Do not worry about the future or live in the past. The only moment you have to live in is the present, so why waste it? The nature of uncertainty is that the future is unknown. Time spent fretting about what might happen is just an exercise in fiction.
What does living and embracing the present moment bring? This moment of uncertainty and vulnerability is where creativity, joy and beauty are found. Walking through the door of uncertainty and vulnerability is full of endless possibilities because this is the location of your true, authentic self. Peace is found in authenticity.
3. Stay in your own lane
When you start to compare yourself to others, you set yourself up for failure. It is not because you cannot be as successful as someone else can be, but because you cannot be anyone else. The only thing you can be is the best version of you — your best, authentic and true self.
This can be a challenge during times of uncertainty because you may see others who are dealing with uncertainty with more ease. Instead of comparing yourself to them, pull away and observe. Know that you will find the most peace when you aren’t pretending but are authentically you.
4. Practice gratitude
Nothing else will bring you into the present moment faster than gratitude. When you practice gratitude, you are reminded of the blessings and opportunities that surround you right now. The funny thing about being in a state of gratitude is that when you focus on what you are grateful for, you receive more. Yes, more.
That which occupies your mental and spiritual focus shows up in all aspects of your life. Therefore, if you are focusing on those factors that make you grateful, you will see more of those results show up.
The converse is also true. If your focus is on worry and fear, get ready for more worry and fear. Your thoughts are a powerful force, so be intentional and strategic about where you put your focus.
5. Be loving and truthful with yourself and others
Be gentle and graceful with yourself and others during times of uncertainty. Know that other people are having the same feelings you are having in these times. When you practice loving kindness, you will find patience, grace and empathy. Tell yourself the truth about how you are feeling, and be prepared for both positive and negative feelings and thoughts to come back to you. Honor and acknowledge all the responses you receive and intentionally shift to more supportive and loving feelings and thoughts. How do you shift? Do what gives you joy and be present to fully enjoy that activity. What is certain is what gives you joy. It really can be that simple in what seems like great complexity.
Remember that uncertainty and vulnerability is the birthplace of truth, authenticity, creativity and beauty. If you choose (yes, it is your choice) to embrace the uncertainty, stay present in the moment with gratitude and give yourself loving grace, you will find tremendous opportunities to help shape a future that you may not have otherwise dreamt possible.
Maria Church is a speaker, consultant and executive coach specializing in organizational culture, change agility and leadership development. She can be reached at www.drmariachurch.com.
This originally appeared in the MDRT Blog.