It’s nearly impossible to escape the changes in our society and in our daily lives. Our Army is no different. Uncertainty seems to be everywhere (leadership and organizational change, new ACFT, budget unpredictability, etc.). Leaders in all levels of our organization are not exempt or immune from volatile changes. And though the Army has employed and adopted strategies, doctrines, and models to assist leaders with mapping the known and unknowns in uncertain environments (AAR’s, risk management, etc..), leaders must continue to lead in uncertain times.
The lack of certainty causes fear and anxiety among Soldiers. It’s not unlike the fear and anxiety in the fog of war. The problem with uncertainty is that it drives Soldiers to believe in anything to include rumors both real and imagined in an attempt to make sense of the current environment and help defend against change. If unchecked, the uncertainty will continue to foster and lead to chaos, inefficiencies, and disruptions in organizations. So, what is a leader to do?
First, remain calm and understand the big picture. Be the sterling example of steadfast, calm, leadership. View the uncertain time as an opportunity to harness this anxiety in positive ways to fuel the innovation and productivity. Focus on the facts and address rumors accordingly. Revert back to the unit’s mission and your vision on what you want to accomplish. Review your higher commander’s intent and your own commander’s intent. This will provide you a foundation on how to make decisions. Then communicate effectively to ensure success. Here are a few things to consider:
Communicate: Communicate a compelling vision and commander’s intent clearly to the organization and ensure everyone understands it. Make people feel part of the organization and enthusiastically communicate what success looks like at the end. Reassure Soldiers and help them understand that all their questions can be answered in due time. Give them a sense of hope – If they believe, they will achieve.
Set priorities and align resources: Setting priorities helps Soldiers to understand what is important. But setting priorities isn’t enough. Leaders must also properly align recourse to ensure priorities can be achieved with an aim on overall mission success.
Empower Soldiers: Push decision-making level down to the lowest level and empower all leaders in the organization. Show them that you trust them to grow and make mistakes.
Anticipate, adapt, and focus: Develop battle drills to deal with routine interruptions. Battle drills set the conditions and provide a play book on how to deal with particular interruptions when they arise. At times it will mean deviating from our standard operating procedures to stay on course towards success but only until we can get back on track. Encourage them to embrace change and how to navigate obstacles towards mission success.
Leadership presence: Leader’s presence down to the lowest level is absolutely paramount for mission success. Take responsibility and lead by example.
Lastly, train Soldiers to embrace change. Mentor, coach, and train them to leverage resources and accomplish tasks aligned with priorities, intent, and endstate. As leaders we will continue to face uncertain times in both personal and military occupations. However, how we handle uncertainty will determine our success and end goal.