How to Effectively Lead Others in Uncertain Times

Confused businessman writing question mark on whiteboard

How to Effectively Lead Others in Uncertain Times

We seem to be in uncertain times. It’s the role of great leaders to provide direction and hope in times of uncertainty.

In season 24 episode 9, John covers the critical topic of leading in uncertain times.

Leadership isn’t easy when times are good. Consider the challenge of leading in uncertain times. Uncertainty refers to epistemic situations involving imperfect or unknown information.

In many ways, leadership and uncertainty go hand in hand. Leaders are constantly providing a vision of a future that hasn’t happened, selling a vision of a better world than exists in its current form.  All in an effort to rally others to buy into a vision and make it a reality.

Great leaders provide direction and hope in times of uncertainty.

John Eades

There is no better example of this than the coronavirus pandemic.  In my 37 years, I have never experienced this much uncertainty.  Depending on your industry, there is a good chance the virus has or will impact your business (and the people you lead) in one way or another. 

Take fear head-on

At the center of uncertainty is fear.  You and I fear what we don’t know or understand, and fear is an emotion of the mind. Those six inches between our ears begin to picture all that might wrong and all of the scenarios that might play out. The keyword here is “might”. Fear gets complicated. Not only does it infiltrate your mind, but it can and will infiltrate each person on your team, in different ways and with different intensity levels.  

Overcoming fear is a skill you can develop.  As you gain more experience and you develop your fear reducing skills, you will get better at not allowing fear to take hold of the space in your brain.  Part of your responsibility is to help them understand that nothing good comes after they allow fear to set in, regardless of how intense the pressures or messages from the outside world become.  

The formula for leaders

Focus on Facts + Communicate Hope in the Future

Focus on Facts

Once we understand fear is at the root of what will ruin you or your team in uncertain times, then comes your most important job, get the facts.  Take the time, effort, and necessary steps to get the facts about the current situation. Don’t rely on a news headline or some opinion you have, but on the actual facts.  While it’s true the facts change as time goes on, it’s important anything you communicate to your team be rooted in facts, not fear.

Communicate Hope in the Future

Communicating hope in the future is challenging because often the facts can create even more uncertainty or doubt.  While each situation is different, I have found it almost always better to side with transparency centered with hope.  In many ways, the only thing that matters for a leader is what’s ahead of them and their team. Hope is expecting good things with confidence. It’s an optimistic state of mind that the future is brighter. Make that the center of your message. If hope isn’t in your message, your people won’t make the self-disciplined choices required to improve the situation.  They will give up.  

Self-discipline is simply the willingness and the ability to sacrifice what you want now for what you want more later on.  Each member of your team will have to be willing and able to sacrifice what they want now (fear and comfort) for what they want more later on (a better future). This is exactly why your message to your team needs both facts and hope in the future.  


As we enter this current state of uncertainty or any type of uncertainty you experience on your team, remember, you are exactly in the position you are supposed to be. You are good enough to lead your team through this. Now, more than ever, they need you to lead.   

What are the keys to leading in times of uncertainy and crisis?

Don’t allow fear to take hold, focus on the facts, communicate hope in the future.

What do great leader do in times of uncertainty?

Great leaders provide direction and hope in uncertain times.

Is leadership harder during times of uncertainty?

Without question leadership is harder during times of uncertainty. But leadership in many ways is all about uncertainty.

Join the Next Ultimate Leadership Academy If you are ready to elevate the way you lead, join the next virtual Ultimate Leadership Academy which starts March 18th. Use the code “leader” to get $50 off.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.