As I mentioned in my last post, The Absolute Best Reason to Bring Values to Leadership, I am very fortunate and honored to have CEO Connection as one of my clients, and to work closely with member CEOs as Co-Chair of the Membership Committee.
Last week we hosted one of our CEO Boot Camps here in Chicago, a chance for CEOs of very large companies to share experiences, stories and advice that can be uniquely applied to make them stronger leaders.
George Bradt, the Co-Founder of CEO Connection, wrote a blog post about the keynote speaker and the wisdom he shared, having been a long-term CEO, on the opening night of the event. If you’re interested, you can read George’s summary of Howard’s presentation in CEO Success – Howard Fluhr.
You’ll note Howard saved the best – perhaps the most important – for last. He told the group to embrace uncertainty. He even went on to say that he has come to notice that the most common element he has identified in successful CEOs is their ability to lead through uncertainty. According to Howard, that’s the differentiator in getting the CEO job in the first place.
So, during one of our breaks I asked Howard a bit more about this. I wanted to know what he thought he had done over the years that led his company’s leaders to see that in him. What does he look for now as he is considering his successor, and how does he advise his clients to evaluate this in rising stars.
I wasn’t taking notes so I’m in no way quoting him, but we talked about fear. He talked about how the fear that comes from uncertainly is a paralyzer to some, and when this happens it’s very evident. You can simply see it in how some respond in a meeting and how some respond in the way they do their job.
For others, it’s an enabler, sometimes even exciting. Those are the people who’ll have a shot at the top spot.
Does that include you? Think about how you handle uncertainty in your own life. How did you naturally respond to…
- the first day of school
- your first day on the job
- getting engaged
- finding out you were pregnant
…or any number of days when you woke up with uncertainty looming large.
Was there a part of you that was paralyzed with fear? Did you let that fear affect your experience or did you funnel that fear into creative energy? Were you devoid of all fear and simply open to the wild excitement of the blank slate and your own, colorful set of crayons?
Understanding your own natural reaction to uncertainty is imperative in understanding what you’re conveying to your followers in this time of uncertainty – in any period of uncertainty. To be effective you must lead through it and help your team to be effective in the midst of it.
For me, that has always translated into holding fast to the team’s vision and then envisioning different paths that will get us there in the event Plan A doesn’t work out as expected; making sure to maximize the “pro’s” of each path and calmly navigating – and being fully prepared for – the “con’s.”
How do you lead through uncertainty, and what is your natural reaction to it? What advice do you have for others?
Please share your responses and advice this Tuesday evening, November 16th at 8:00 pm ET at our next edition of #LeadershipChat! Steve Woodruff and I hope to see you there! And don’t forget to head over to Steve’s blog tomorrow for his take on leading through uncertainty!
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Photo is “looks like trouble” by are you my rik?