Leadership, Hurricanes, the Known and the Unknown

Leadership into the unknown and weathering hurricanes has a lot in common. I am not saying that leaders experience hurricanes all of the time. For periods, leadership can feel as though it is in familiar territory with known patterns and outcomes. During other periods, sometimes in relation to the same event or situation, the experience is one of leading into the unknown.

During the recent days leading up to Hurricane Florence's arrival here on the coast in North Carolina, USA, I was nineteen years wise about hurricanes, the damage they can cause, and what it takes to be in preparedness at home to get through the days of a hurricane and the aftermath.

Supplied with wisdom files from experience, and listening to the Governor's advice several days in advance to stock up on food, water, emergency supplies and more before the stores ran out of inventory, I was there standing in the long lines, getting what I needed. Okay, I confess...when I got home from the grocery shopping and realized I had forgotten to buy chocolate, I went back, got the chocolate, and stood in line a second time. The lead up to the arrival of Hurricane Florence felt effortless. Ward and I took leadership of what needed to be done for our home. The reason it felt effortless was that for that part of the experience, we led from our knowledge, from information, and from a pattern that we were familiar with. This period of leadership had a sense of order to it, a sense of predictability.

What Hurricane Florence Teaches Us About Leadership

Like others in our area, we paid attention to the updating of the weather maps that displayed probable trajectories of the storm, predicted to be the worst this state had ever experienced. Some of the predicted paths showed that the storm would curve back out into the ocean and not come on land at all. In that case, we were over-prepared. Some of the predicted paths had the storm coming right at us in which case we would face challenges completely out of our control, those not possible to prepare for like trees coming down, electricity being unavailable for days, and more. We, like others, were poised for our leadership into the unknown, not knowing what to do until the various factors played out and the actual trajectory revealed itself.

Sitting in this energy of leading with preparedness over what could be put into order, and simultaneously being poised to take leadership action of making decisions only once the storm showed itself felt like a balancing act. I thought back to times in my life when I was the formal leader of a team or an entire organization. I realized that this identical balancing act was within me daily.

Much of the way we each experience leadership is familiar. Familiar routines, familiar activities to attend to throughout the year as you work towards successful goal accomplishment, familiar practices and habits. This is leadership of the known.

Good leaders, extraordinary leaders, are also prepared to lead into the unknown. Having a sense of most of the possibilities of what might happen, like the unending spaghetti models of Hurricane Florence's potential path. Knowing that what actually happens may be different than the most likely model presented. Being ready to make whatever strategic decisions are necessary to stay the course of the actual path as it unfolds.

Leading into the unknown is a capacity that leaders must grow and strengthen throughout their careers.  As the world seems to change more and more rapidly with each passing day, more and more time and energy are invested in leading into the unknown.

Have you thought about your own capacity for leading in this way? What are the strategies that work best for you to continue growing and strengthening this capacity?

Genuine Contact: A Holistic Approach to Change

Leading into the unknown, balancing with order and chaos, is a topic covered in several modules of the Genuine Contact program. This will be a topic that is covered in the June 2019 Genuine Contact Summer Academy, featuring Genuine Contact as a holistic approach to change.

If you are curious about developing the capacity of yourself and your organization for leading into the unknown, join us for the Genuine Contact Summer Academy in June 2019 in Ontario, Canada. This week-long workshop is an intensive opportunity to explore leading into the unknown in your work and in your life.

Birgitt Williams
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Birgitt Williams is an international management and organizational solutions consultant, author, meeting facilitator, teacher, keynote speaker and executive coach. Her business focus is to create inspiring work environments that are highly effective in achieving their purpose and fulfilling their vision.

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