Keren Tsuk
5 min readApr 4, 2019

The Courage To Lead In Uncertain Times

Leaders are required to move their team, department or their company forward, to engage the employees, to generate interest and commitment, to nurture the ability to grow and develop and to be open to continuous change.

Hundreds of articles have been written about the complex reality we live in, the dynamism and the constant change that requires us to demonstrate flexibility, adopt new patterns, and especially to succeed in moving forward and motivating others in a complex period characterized by great uncertainty.

In order to do this, we have to leave our comfort zone sometimes and abandon the automatic habits that govern us on a daily basis. Automatic behavior means actions we do inadvertently, without “thinking twice”. This behavior has advantages in certain situations, especially during periods of stability, and it serves us faithfully and leads to the desired results. For example, if a manager is supposed to complete a report at the end of each month, the advantage is that there is no need to think each time how to fill out the report. The action does not require much energy and time.

On the other hand, when do automatic actions not serve us? Especially when we want to produce different, new results. The automatic habits can lead to stagnation and then the results will not serve us. In other words, sometimes automatic behavior that has served us for a certain period of time does not serve us any longer.

Throughout our lives we all adopt automatic behaviors, for example: to say “no” to any new opportunity, to please others and to give up our voice, avoid confrontations and more. On the other hand, it is possible to act differently, to “explode” and to jump with great force in the face of any disagreement or confrontation. As long as the behavior serves and benefits us, we have no desire to change it, but when we feel that it no longer serves us and feels that we are stuck, we must stop and examine what is happening.

What is the same behavior? For example, some tend to avoid confrontation and desire to harmonize with those around them. Often this tendency leads us to reduce our personal space and our ability to influence what is happening. As managers, it also prevents us from defending the interests of our employees because we bother other people and avoid entering areas of conflict. In my experience, this automaton leaves no room for that person or manager to do so, and he can not bring himself to be seen: the mere consent to all that is said to him or his avoidance of confrontation reduces his influence and his space. In time, he may feel that he can no longer tolerate the situation and reach the opposite extreme of an explosion or “break down the dishes. This situation does not come from a choice but from the feeling that it is no longer possible to bear the previous situation.

If so, sometimes we must act against the automaton, find a place for ourselves, be more present and more attentive to ourselves and act in accordance with the new circumstances. When disagreeing with colleagues, behave against the automaton and avoid dealing with the situation by avoiding confrontation or agreeing to what is said, even though the inner feeling tells us not to agree. It is necessary to dare to initiate a conversation in which to share the feeling of discomfort with the others without being dragged to the opposite end, where emotion, anger, and frustration control the situation. We must avoid letting the situation and emotions manage us. This requires mindfulness — that is, the ability to be aware of the experiences we experience, emotions and thoughts in a nonjudgmental manner, without letting circumstances manage us.

We must be attentive to emotions and feelings such as the experience of frustration, disagreement, fear, and so on without allowing them to manage us even if they are not pleasant so that we can better manage the situation and ourselves. Keep in mind: we are free to choose our behavior and conduct. For example, it is possible to convene an orderly meeting and share our feelings and thoughts with our colleagues, even if they are not pleasant, because they have to be assigned a place. This behavior is liable to arouse concern because it involves uncertainty and we do not know how others will respond — will they be angry, understand or react in an unexpected way? Moreover, we must take a position of openness toward reality and allow a solution to emerge from the interaction rather than vice versa.

In general, we have learned that managers lead us to present solutions and answers, especially today when reality becomes more complex and characterized by uncertainty, and we do not have the ability to know all the answers and solutions in advance.

Therefore we must increase our presence as managers and leaders and dare to be present in those places where we ourselves do not know the answers. When we dare to express fears, thoughts or feelings, usually we will see that things do not fall on deaf ears — others may feel like us, but they did not dare to externalize it. By acting this way, we give legitimacy to others not to know all the answers and to agree sometimes to be in unpleasant situations that allow clarity to be created and ideas and precise solutions to emerge.

What does this demand of us as leaders?

· Dare to be present at the meeting and share the experience we are experiencing right now — without bringing the solution

· Be open and attentive to the opinions, thoughts, and other perspectives that arise during interaction

· Look for some solutions to the problem

· To provide sufficient “ripening” time for the solution and not to push for a solution at that meeting. Sometimes we will say at the beginning of the meeting that for the time being we are only investigating the matter and looking at it without expecting to reach a solution at the end of the meeting. This will give us room for real observation and reduce the pressure to “get results” — paradoxically; the optimal solution will often appear.

Keren Tsuk

Dr. Keren Tsuk is the Founder of Wisdom To Lead, consulting company which specializes in working with senior management teams & leadership.