Leading In Uncertain Times: Part 2 – Best Leadership Qualities

By Sahana Chattopadhyay and originally published on medium.com 

“Presencing — a blended word combining sensing (feeling the future possibility) and presence (the state of being in the present moment). It means sensing and actualizing one’s highest future possibility — acting from the presence of what is wanting to emerge.”

This is the second part of an article by Sahana Chattopadhyay on the future of Leadership. Read Part 1 here.

Embodying Presencing

To embody Presencing, leaders need to have the courage, faith, and vision to slow down, step back, soften their gaze, and widen their perspectives. They have to develop their ability to see and listen beyond the obvious, beyond the immediate, and become pattern seekers. Move from reaction to responsiveness, from manipulation to communication, from influencing to creating impact. This requires a different set of skills and qualities:

Unyielding belief in human potential. Umair Haque, in a series of articles on leadership, writes about the qualities of a true leader of which this is one.

I am in complete agreement with him that true leaders are those “who expand human potential to its very highest, so everyone can live a life that matters”. Organizations facing turmoil and uncertainty need such leaders who can inspire people to contribute from their highest future self.

As we step deeper and deeper into an ever-changing and unpredictable world, we have no choice but to create conditions where everyone’s gifts can be brought together to solve the intractable challenges of our times.

Organizations — as platforms that bring together, coordinate, and organize the efforts of many — are uniquely placed to have deep impact. When leaders have unyielding faith, they infuse the same throughout their organization. And an organization filled with people who believe in themselves can collectively achieve something extraordinary and incredible.

Valuing impact over influence. This too is inspired by Haque’s series of articles; and I have added my thoughts to it. Leadership models are all about influencing and persuading. A whole genre of books and training have evolved from this belief. However, as we are experiencing in all spheres of life — organizational, social, political, ecological — influencing and persuasion haven’t brought us to a happy place.

As Otto Scharmer puts it, “we have collectively created results that no one wants.” Instead, organizations and leaders must focus on the impact they have — on their people, on the community, the ecosystem, the society, and the Planet.

When leaders have the resilience, can embrace uncertainty with courage, and have faith in the capacity of their people, they will automatically enhance the well-being of all. And this is the impact leaders need to create today.

Understanding of Interbeing. I have borrowed Thich Nhat Hanh’s term to signify the importance of acknowledging and valuing the inter-connectedness and interdependence of everything. When organizations and their leaders can truly appreciate this, they cannot make decisions that benefit a few and cause harm to many.

Leaders with a deep sense of Interbeing pave the way for a regenerative culture. When leaders practice the principles of building a regenerative culture, competition gives way to collaboration, scarcity is replaced by a sense of abundance, purpose takes precedence over profit, and the feeling of separation is replaced by a sense of the whole.

When leaders face uncertainty with a steadfast belief in Interbeing, they unlock the potential of the whole, and create space for the emergent future.

Staying with Uncertainty: While this has been the theme of this article, I have mentioned it separately because it is a skill that needs to be developed with rigor, attention, and awareness. Leaders have the propensity and are often expected to provide answers in times of great uncertainty and upheaval.

Staying with uncertainty conversely requires leaders to strengthen their muscles for staying in the space between stories, suspending judgement, being ok with not having any answer, and tapping into one’s inner guidance till a response naturally surfaces.

This also requires trust in the underlying coherence of the Universe, and belief that beneath the chaos lies a hidden order that is constantly propelling us — individuals and organizations alike — toward our next level of evolution.

Operating from an Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Will: I am simply paraphrasing Otto Scharmer here as he explains the U process where, as one journeys down the left side of the U, one learns to let of what holds us back — the Voice of Judgment, the Voice of Cynicism, and the Voice of Fear.

As leaders deliberately and consciously practice this process, they create a container for generative conversations and deep listening — core leadership skills in times of complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity. By letting go of the old paradigms of Absencing and embracing Presencing, leaders shift the inner source from which they operate. And this has a transformative effect on the organization and its people.

The U Process — Otto Scharmer

Trusting in Emergence: Only when we trust in a coherent and emergent Universe can we wholeheartedly and fearlessly embrace uncertainty. This comes from letting go of the expert’s mindset, and becoming a learner. This willingness to dwell in the unknown creates the conditions for emergence.

This is not a passive act of sitting back and waiting for something to happen. It is an active process of staying in the liminal space, listening deeply, engaging all our sensemaking capacities, and staying open to what wants to manifest.

It is the capacity to see patterns and connect disparate dots. I believe, a very important leadership capacity for the VUCA world. Leaders who can lean into the emerging future are the ones who create magic in the face of chaos.

Do we realize we are working with people who have great reservoirs of goodness, commitment and creativity? Or do we, in the traditional Western model, feel that if there’s good in the organization, it’s only because of our own qualities of leadership?

I have realized over time that the real role of a leader is not to control but to mid-wife-to evoke those qualities of commitment, compassion, generosity and creativity that are in all of us to start with. ~Margaret Wheatley

Sahana is a Coach, Facilitator, Speaker, and Writer with a background in designing workplace learning experiences, and Organization Development.

Catalyst | Community Steward | Scribe to an emerging era… Exploring new ways of Being | Lover of mountains, rivers, forests, & seas.

Her passion is to help individuals, teams, and organizations hold space for emergence, and move towards their fullest potential. Reach her at [email protected] 

Featured image/graphic link, block quoting and some paragraph spacing added by Enlivening Edge Magazine. Featured Image by kalhh from Pixabay