Magazine Article | October 2, 2014

Uncertainty: The Leadership Challenge Of Today

Source: Life Science Leader

By Laura Butler, CEO, WorkLife Performance Consulting

One of the greatest challenges leaders face is uncertainty. In today’s knowledge-based organizations, four areas are affected by uncertainty — talent engagement, change, diversity and inclusion, and work/life integration. Uncertainty in these four areas arises from the following:

We face it every time we turn on a computer and wrestle with new software. Information technology is so vital in supporting the increasing demands of healthcare innovation and is driving the need for very different skills.

Inside healthcare organizations, a new sense of accountability has driven leadership change. The 2012 Towers Watson study presents the evolving leadership model and includes accessibility, global and cultural acumen, transparency, authenticity, and interpersonal agility as competencies that will be required in leaders of the future.

Things like pension plans, stock options, market volatility, and dot com bubbles are a few examples of what leaders face today when trying to forecast financials. Being ready is the only security.

A five-year plan has become an impossible dream, yet we yearn for a vision — a sense of direction and destination to give meaning and value to the activities and struggles of the day.

An effective leader replaces uncertainty, fear, and doubt with purpose, courage, and trust. Purpose is the energetic “magnet” that pulls people together and points them in a similar direction. Courage provides strength and commitment in the face of fear. Trusting a person’s purpose overcomes doubt.

The problem is that we have taught managers and leaders how to plan, organize, and lead organizations based on workplace practices and programs from the 20th century. The 21st century presents us with new demands. Leaders at every level need to formulate and implement different strategies for survival in this new world and new economy, even more so with new uncertainties.

The question is: How can leaders lead during these times of uncertainty?


The leader has to be clear about what they want to do, professionally and personally and must be able to tell a compelling story that allows others to see their role in the attainment of that vision.


The leader who communicates passion gives hope and inspiration to other people to follow their own passion in alignment with the guiding vision.

It is the basis of trust. You can’t have trust without integrity, and it cannot be acquired, but must be earned. Doing the right thing as compared to doing things right sets the tone for expectations throughout the enterprise.

To succeed and be ready, companies have to adapt to change. Leadership, then, has become about learning how to cope with rapid change and ongoing uncertainty. How ready are you to lead in a world of uncertainty? Certainly, uncertainty is here to stay in spite of our efforts to dispel it.