Embrace leadership from
a position of fear
When the transition to hybrid work began, we heard some horror stories. Organisations installed monitoring apps on their employees' computers to ensure they were actually working. Managers enforced morning, afternoon and evening check-ins to ensure work was actually getting done. There's a word for this: micromanaging. According to a number of reports, investment in employee monitoring software has surged since the pandemic. And the reason people do it is understandable. When we're not at our desks together, we can't always see what is getting done. That creates uncertainty.

But micromanaging does not increase productivity. And it doesn't create an environment where high-performers are empowered to do their best work. In fact, employee surveillance is likely to drive high-performers away, reduce the quality of work, reduce team engagement and lead to dissatisfaction within workplaces.

So how do we, as leaders, balance the challenge of empowering our teams to thrive, while also making sure the work gets done? The answer could lie in leading from a position of uncertainty.

What does it mean to lead with uncertainty?
Leading with uncertainty ultimately comes down to understanding our own fears and becoming comfortable with them. Are we worried that work not getting done reflects poorly on our own performance? Do we miss older forms of communication and worry that we need to overcompensate by over-communicating now that we're away from our desks? Do we fear the unknowns, and so want to reassure ourselves with clarity at every stage of the work process?

Whatever your personal fears are, the truth is that leaders face uncertainty. When we accept our fears as our own, we can start working with them rather than against them.

Fear is a good thing — it prepares us for what could go wrong. But unless we become comfortable with leading from a perspective of fear (by acknowledging and accepting our fears as our own), we can let fear drive our decision making processes. We don't want fear at the steering wheel — we want to be comfortable with fear sitting alongside us in the passenger seat.

Some of it comes down to workplace structure
How does your workplace operate? Traditionally, workplace models might have a leadership team — or CEO — who decides on organisational strategy, passes this down to team managers, who then assign tasks and responsibilities to their team members. However, over the past few years, we've seen more examples of new, non-hierarchical ways of working.

Non-hierarchical workplaces typically focus on organising the work — not the people. Instead of adopting a pyramid-like structure to organise how people within an organisation function, they look at buckets of what needs to be done, and assign work to people depending on what buckets of work that specific person or team is responsible for.

An example of a bucket might be sales. Instead of telling the people who work within the sales bucket exactly what to do, a leader might instead provide the people within that bucket with what they need to do that job. It's about empowering them with what they need, rather than dictating what they do in that role.

But most of it is human.
At FEW, we believe that authentic leaders are able to embrace fear and work alongside it. The good news is that there are skills you can build to start shifting the way you work and becoming more comfortable with uncertainty at work. Some of these skills include:

  • Empathy
  • Social intelligence
  • Resilience
  • Workplace community building skills
Notice anything when you look at this list of skills? They're all uniquely human skills. Being a better, more authentic leader is not about installing new processes or working on technical organisational restructures (though sometimes these can help). It's about understanding yourself as a leader and working with the tools you already have.

If you're interested in building the human-centred skills you need to become comfortable with uncertainty, we'd love for you to check out our Adaptive Global Leaders & Super Teams program.