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ATD Blog

Can You Train Leaders to Lead Effectively in the Face of Workplace Uncertainty?

Thursday, April 14, 2022

The pandemic and technology have brought on near-constant disruptions and uncertainty and a swift pace of change in the business. Despite the challenges, leaders must retool and continue to lead even more effectively to keep up with the constant changes.

Fortunately, you can train leaders to lead effectively despite uncertainty. With leadership coaching as a key learning strategy to drive business performance—even when the only certainty is swift, continuous change—leaders can be developed to create the direct, positive impact that organizations need.

What Skills Do Leaders Need?

Operating amid uncertainty can cause stress, burnout, and even depression. Uncertainty can lead to low productivity, creativity, and a lack of engagement and job satisfaction, even among top leaders and their teams. To start developing leaders for success in the face of uncertainty , consider the skills mentioned below, which they can also use to support their employees in changeable environments:

The ability to manage change. Leaders must be capable of managing change. Those who powerfully and openly manage change communicate the strategic vision that supports the change. They help team members stay connected to the organization’s mission, vision, culture, and values, and they remove barriers to swift, necessary employee action. A leader who manages change empowers their team to contribute to goals and celebrates short-term wins along the way.


Excellent interpersonal skills. In the professional services network, EY’s 2021 Empathy in Business Survey, more than 1,000 employed Americans were surveyed about their thoughts on the importance of workplace empathy. Some 54 percent had left a previous job because their boss wasn’t empathetic to their work struggles, and 49 percent left because their manager wasn’t empathetic to challenges in their personal lives.

Because the pandemic pushed many employees into remote work, a defined line between work and home or personal and professional life no longer exists. Interpersonal skills are a necessity to retain talent. Leaders with these skills demonstrate a desire to understand other people’s intentions and desired outcomes. They respectfully and authentically express thoughts, opinions, and emotions. When it comes to showing empathy, successful leaders put themselves in other people’s shoes, and they offer understanding alongside strategy and direction.


The ability to set vision and direction. In times of uncertainty, it’s important for leaders to lead! This doesn’t mean they need to have immediate answers, but an effective leader understands how to set a clear and motivating vision with supporting tasks and goals. In the face of uncertainty, clear communication and thoughtful transparency help to create a direct line of sight between organizational objectives and each team’s work. Combined with their interpersonal skills, leaders who demonstrate this skill show empathy and confidence while sharing the vision with their teams.

Leadership Skills Impact the Bottom Line

Struggling with mental health problems, being vulnerable to a greater risk of burnout, ineffectively dealing with poor employee performance, and the potential loss of talent are just a few of the bottom-line implications associated with leaders who do not lead well amid change and uncertainty. The repercussions of business disruptions and upheavals require that organizations continue to invest in their leaders and develop the aforementioned critically important skills.

From the C-suite to frontline managers, top-notch leadership capabilities like self-awareness are necessary to navigate an uncertain business landscape effectively. The good news is these capabilities can be developed. One way to develop leadership capabilities is through leadership coaching. In a 2021 Sounding Board case study on software development consulting firm Pivotal Labs, 78 percent of participating leaders said their skill levels across various leadership capabilities improved, some in as little as six months after these learning interventions. So, investing in leadership development, and in leadership coaching specifically, helps leaders acquire the capabilities and competencies they need to lead their organizations in the face of adversity of all kinds.

About the Author

Hannah McKenna was a content and marketing writer for Sounding Board, the first leadership coaching management system designed to bridge the leadership gap. We empower organizations to build deep leadership expertise and to manage, measure, and scale leadership coaching programs with unparalleled flexibility and ease of use.

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Very insightful and pertinent at this time!
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