Leading Yourself Through Uncertainty
There is a saying: ‘charity begins at home’. Perhaps during these challenging times, we can change this to: ‘leadership begins at home’. In this blog I want to offer some ideas of how a leadership model can provide comfort and clarity in times of profound uncertainty and change.
The model I would like to use is my own Leadership Matrix model from my book Mindful Business Leadership. The core principle behind this model are archetypes – the idea that each one of us has certain core human energies and attributes which can help us, if we choose the correct archetype for the situation.
The Leadership Matrix: An Overview
Before I begin, I will just give a very quick overview of each one:
- Compass– Envisaging a future path to follow. Creating cultures. Focusing on the wider system, rather than the day-to-day work itself. Having a sense of vision.
- Boss– Setting boundaries. Having agency. Protecting yourself and others directly. Having a sense of power.
- Coach– Listening and intuiting others’ needs. Providing a presence that helps others to self-organise. Having a sense of empathy.
- Architect– Having a passion for the design and implementation of systems which make life more efficient and scalable. Having a mechanistic vision to make things work better.
- Express Train– Wanting to get things done now. A passion, even impatience, for action and results. Wanting to drive things to a conclusion.
- Alarm Bell– A visceral sense that something has gone badly wrong. Not simple anxiety, more a sense that something radical has happened and all of your resources need to be brought to bear. Having a sense when a genuine emergency has happened.
- Radar– Being able to read and quickly work out the latest trends in people’s collective behaviours and desires. Having a vision for what is happening in the world.
- Fox– Being able to influence people and being a street-smart survivor. Having a sense of the real political forces that drive the world.
- Friend– Creating strong relationships and understanding how to build and maintain powerful networks. Having a sense of how to build your tribe.
- And lastly, in the top right corner, Conductor– this is a ‘space’ you can enter that allows you to detach yourself from the strong emotions (and agendas) of the above archetypes, so you can wisely consider your next move.
For a more detailed description, here is link that contains a full presentation off the model: https://leadershipmatrix.com
So – How Can This Help Me?
Firstly, you need to be aware of which archetypes you habitually visit (and which you habitually ignore.) Personally, it took a bit of time for my Alarm Bell to ring with the Corona Virus, even though I have not been affected by any direct personal tragedy. However, the benefit of a good Alarm Bell is to act before something happens, to try as best as you can to prevent a disaster.
I will now go through each of the Archetypes, with some suggestions:
This situation provides opportunities for you to do something different. What is that going to be? For example, I have decided to focus my training business on delivering quality E-learning. I also have a vision to help my family, friends and the wider community. But I also have a sense of confusion. I know from my experience in building businesses that the process of change can’t be done by this Archetype alone, so I will need to shift around the Matrix (see below). I have a sense that a new vision is needed now for many aspects of life.
I also know that this is a time to keep myself and my loved ones safe. Some people in life who can be a destructive influence can also be fun at times. During these times, I will not put myself and my loved ones in danger. I can still find ways to be supportive, but that is for another archetype. This energy is good at reminding me that I am allowed to set boundaries, and I do not have to needlessly sacrifice myself through poor judgements and not saying ‘no’.
Am I able to offer a listening presence to people when they need it? At times people do need advice and expertise. At the same time, often the greatest gift you can give is to offer a non-judgemental listening space. For many, the act of listening without advising can be extremely hard. To simply keep quiet and listen empathetically requires effort, but the payoff is great.
Many people find the act of simply talking to someone, without being corrected or advised, deeply healing. Ann Baldwin who coached me for many years said, “I let my clients have conversations with themselves.” In a world where people, especially younger people, value sensitivity and inclusion, being able to offer this ‘sounding board’ or even ‘shoulder to cry on’ can be the greatest gift you can offer at this time.
Creating systems for life at home can be very helpful, especially if you are looking after others. Even booking food deliveries for weeks ahead and anticipating your own needs, and those of people close to you, can be extremely valuable. Using this time to also build up your strength, with exercise, a good diet and rest, allows you to ‘design yourself’ to withstand a future potential illness.
Many people are using the time to start all sorts of things and to finally finish off other things they had permanently put off. Personally, I seem busier now than before the crisis. I have therefore, reinvigorated my time management system – which I cover in this link: https://www.thinklikeanentrepreneur.com/supporttools (You can use it as a manual system too.)
A key tip here comes from the author of Getting Things Done, Steve Allen. Perhaps you have some tasks that mildly haunt you. You feel you should do them, but don’t seem to ever find the time. Yet every time you pass it, you get a nagging feeling of guilt. For example, “Clean up my filing cabinet or draws”.
Allen suggest you have a long-term task list and literally agree with yourself to do it in, say, six months’ time. When that time comes, you can put it forward another six months if you like. The key is to keep promises to yourself. Putting something on a list stops you from feeling guilty that you haven’t done it.
To put it another way – time management is the practice of advanced procrastination. When you dump all your tasks into a reliable system, they no longer float around in your unconscious mind, and you stop worrying that you ‘might have forgotten something’. During stressed periods in my life, I have found time mangement to be a high impact stress relieving procedure. I then can sleep better at nights as I don’t worry I may have forgotten something. ‘If you don’t have a list, you are listless!’
Some things need to be done soon. Others don’t. The Express train really wants everything you think of to be done right now. So before you enter this energy, it is a good idea to make sure that you reduce your task list to a practical amount of important things. Stephen Covey discusses the difference between urgent and important: urgent is a factor of time and importance is a factor of values. Don’t confuse the two.
By spending some of the time now on important things, which are not currently urgent, you have a chance of sorting them out easily, before they become urgent. Also, things that are important and may never become urgent usually have a high impact on your life. An example of this is time management itself – an activity that is important, but not urgent. When you get into it, you will find you have more time because you have been able to organise yourself. However, during a crisis, some things are simply urgent and need to be done asap: i.e. Express Time. Getting the balance between this immediate energy and the longer term one of the Architect is the key to becoming what Stephen Covey defines as ‘effective’.
This energy is certainly both a blessing and a curse at this time. Spending excessive time reading articles and the barrage of frightening tips online can stress your system and lead to a near-permeant state of hyper vigilance and fear. At the same time, not learning new ways of living to minimize your chances of contracting the virus can also be problematic. Widely speaking, from a health (both physical and mental) and financial perspective, most people are ‘hearing’ an Alarm bell. This is a good thing if it inspires practical change, but not if it depletes your energy through excessive worry.
What do the changes represented by the Corona Virus mean, both long term and short term? This energy can be a gift for people who have their ‘finger on the pulse’ of changes in people’s attitudes and habits. My sense is that society may become more ‘we’ focused with a huge reminder that this is something that requires our collective efforts. Some businesses like the video conferencing system Zoom are benefiting hugely, with their share price increasing exponentially.
Home delivery and some medical businesses are doing well too. I am not advocating capitalising on the Corona Virus per se, but crisis can be defined as the meeting of ‘danger and opportunity’. At the same time as taking a future orientated view – that life will one day return to normal – it is important to not radically disrupt your life (i.e. to see this as a ‘pause’ rather than a ‘stop’). Often this Radar energy simply needs to be exercised, discussed and considered. Changes which seem obvious to you may hold amazing opportunities, if you act on them.
This is the street-smart energy that is needed, especially in times of crisis. There is also a ‘will to survive’ – what can you practically do to get money, food and shelter during this challenging time? What would be a smart way to ensure you have enough resources, that does not go against your core values?
The virus presents a great opportunity to reconnect with friends and to spend time on the phone or on video chat. It is especially important to make the effort to reach out and connect to others if you live alone. Part of leadership is to build networks – not just superficially on social networks, but also directly, by arranging one to one time. It is essential for your own wellbeing to meet your needs of connection and those of others. Personally, I am having frequent phone calls to reconnect with friends and family, especially those overseas.
The purpose of the Conductor is to stop the ‘chatter’ of all these different wants and needs and simply take a pause. You can become overwhelmed with all the options or feel ashamed you are not doing enough. Leadership starts by getting into the right state and taking some time just to settle your mind.
A Practical Tool You Can Use Now
Choose one topic or goal that you really want to do this week. Look at the diagram and let your eyes move between each archetype asking yourself some questions – here are some suggestions:
Compass – What is this in service of?
Boss – Am I being pressured?
Coach – Will this make my life (or other’s lives) more pleasant/easier?
Architect – Will this outcome undermine our overall system?
Express Train – Is there a rush?
Alarm Bell – Could it create any problems?
Radar – Is this the right time given my expectations of the wider world?
Fox – Am I getting ripped off? Can I trust this person (people)?
Friend – What can I do to make a better connection with the people involved?
Leadership is word I have always had trouble with as it can sound a bit deluded. At the same time, the term ‘leader’ is a very broad one. Although I used to find it difficult to describe myself as a ‘leader’, I certainly do strongly advocate the idea of ‘leading’ my life. During these times of hardship and uncertainty, using this leadership mode may give a new ‘lens’ with which to see the current situation, and hopefully provide a way to generate new ideas to help pass the time indoors.
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