When Confidence Is Not Enough

Confidence is necessary in doing the hard things inevitable in a crisis. It creates momentum that leads to new learning and inspires people to take action. For this kind of impact, a leader’s confidence needs to be rooted in faith rather than circumstance and built on strengths rather than focused on circumventing  weaknesses. 

Conversely, confidence is not a replacement for preparation, nor is it bravado. Overconfidence can be just as dangerous in a crisis as underconfidence. A leader’s job in uncertainty is to overcome misplaced confidence while also building the right kind of confidence to lead others through a critical moment.

However, confidence alone is not enough in uncertain times. What else do your people need so they can be confident in you? Among other things, I keep hearing the need for clarity. In extraordinary circumstances, people always look for direction, clarity and leadership. 

It is certainly not easy to be clear when everything seems to be so uncertain. Leaders are being asked questions they can’t fully answer right now. The answer today can  change tomorrow with new information, challenges and influences. What is a leader to do when being clear seems elusive r?

  • Stick with what you know. There’s a lot that’s unclear in a crisis. Stick to what is clear and be okay with presenting the questions you will be answering, but don’t have the answers yet. Just sharing the next step can be enough to create the needed clarity for today.
  • Acknowledge the circumstances. Giving voice to the angst people are feeling right now creates empathy. Be clear on the challenges ahead, but don’t overstate them. 
  • Fight the urge to narrow your perspective. The pressure is on to focus on the immediate problem with an immediate response which can lead to short range solutions that don’t hold together. Keep asking questions long enough to maintain a wider viewpoint searching for a more intentional and long-term solution. 
  • Keep your options open. Share the breadth of options available to give hope, while remaining flexible to the changing circumstances.
  • Focus on the actions you have already taken. Don’t assume people already know or remember what has been done. Remind them of steps already taken, lessons already learned, and build confidence that even though the plan is evolving, you have a plan!

Why Clarity?

The value of clear messaging in instilling confidence at a time of extreme uncertainty cannot be overstated. As leaders, we want to have a broader recovery strategy in times of crisis — to know the next step and lead everyone toward it confidently. In critical moments like these, the full strategy is evolving. Clarity in your message today buys you time while planning the next move you need to lead your team through and help them thrive even in uncertainty. 

Join the Conversation

In upcoming blogs, let’s engage in conversation on other key competencies for leading in uncertainty … starting with clarity. 

  • How have you seen clarity play a role in your leadership’s impact?
  • What are you noticing in your team when there has been a lack of clarity?
  • What has worked for you in times of uncertainty? How has clarity played a role?

Comment below or send me a message about your thoughts on clarity in crisis!

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Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center of Coaching Excellence.

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