There is no challenge like leading through uncertainty. It is something most leaders must face frequently. But few of us have experienced leading through an unpredictable season quite like what this global pandemic has presented.
While the news and rapid impact of this virus can send most of our heads spinning, our leadership needs the one thing this current crisis is decreasing for us: clarity.
A majority of the news and our culture are infused with anxiety and riveted with uncertainty. Our workplaces and our homes are overcome by the stress of the unknown. It is a crisis that presents a more unpredictable circumstance for our teams and businesses than any of us in leadership may have ever faced before.
Within my role as president of Southeastern University, this month presented several difficult decisions I had to make for the sake of the health and future of our campus body. Even though there are endless factors that played into our decision of ultimately moving our campus to a remote learning format for the remainder of the semester, what aided this difficult decision was a clarity of vision.
Dr. Kerry Ressler, a chief scientific officer at McLean Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, states, "Studies in both animals and people show pretty clearly that stress can affect how the brain functions."
Since stress can cloud our thoughts in times of crisis, we need a dependable system that can allow us to lead with clarity.
As president, I make all of our decisions based on the principles of what I call Framework Leadership. When you can lead according to these four frameworks, it will provide clarity, direction and purpose to see through your vision in any area of leadership or any season.
Here are my four principles of Framework Leadership for leading with clarity in a time of crisis:
- Listen to the people. Before you can lead with a vision, you must be attentive to your team and gather the data of your situation. It is easy to jump ahead and take action, but the first step is to simply listen.
- Audit the context. Next, you must examine your unique current circumstances. As leaders, we must always remember we are not leading assets, we are leading people. Nothing could make that more clear than this current climate. When we are choosing to lead, the precautions and boundaries we set can be the determining factor for the life and health of our teams.
- Clarify your goal. Clarity is the light that brings our vision into view. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy was touring a NASA facility when he noticed a janitor cleaning. He walked up to the man and asked him what he was doing. The man replied, "Mr. President, I am helping to put a man on the moon." Most of the time, how we choose to lead is based on our perspective. Do you have clarity in what your ultimate goal is?
- Align your organization. Just like a sports team or orchestra when everyone seems to be playing seamlessly together with passion, an aligned organization will appear from the outside as an organic single unit. This is not necessarily because it's organic, but because the leader has taken the time to listen, audit and clarify the direction of the organization.
It is quite clear what our universal focus is in the face of the coronavirus — to contribute all we can to end the spread of this virus. Of course, how this plays out for each of us as individual leaders will be different. We must understand that leadership is contextual.
What remains the same through this pandemic, is our universal need for clarity of vision as we lead.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the President of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and is the author of "Framework Leadership." A champion of innovative educational design, Ingle is the president of one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. As president, Ingle founded the American Center for Political Leadership at the university and is also a founding member of the Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. Before becoming Southeastern's president in 2011, Ingle held leadership positions in higher education and the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle. Ingle is the author of several leadership books and the creator of the Framework Leadership podcast. He currently serves on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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