Leading in Times of Uncertainty

“Sell everything. I can’t take it anymore”

That’s the call my friend the financial advisor received.

And then more calls came.

“Am I alright?”

“How bad is this going to get?”

“Why is this happening?”

Why, indeed. Market jitters reflect just how nervous and easily spooked people are all over the world. Bad economic news in Italy and Greece translates instantly to impulse selling in New York and Chicago and ricochets across continents. Fear and uncertainty are universal. Around the world, people are demonstrating, demanding that things change, that there be fairness. Occupy Wall Street is full of people clamoring for economic stability.

Now is where a steady hand is needed.

The leadership imperative is to trust the fundamentals, stay focused and be a voice of sanity. Leaders are a calming presence amidst the noise; they separate fact from the “end of days” scenarios designed to frighten people and gain viewers.

The leadership move is to be the calm in the eye of the storm: an unwavering focus.

We want certainty. Long term. Brick and mortar certainty.

It’s always good to have our plans, and our structures, but still, life unfolds. Having seen first hand what a 7.0 point earthquake can do to even the sturdiest of structures, I have no illusions about life-proof houses, or life-proof plans.

So here’s the challenge: There are No guarantees. The future is still a mystery. The more we fret and focus on what we can’t control, the more desperate, and afraid we become.

What can we do? Take a chill pill and breathe. We can be certain of this breath, this inhale, and that exhale. When I return my attention to this breath, I return to the present.

When I return my attention to this breath, I return to the present.

It’s in the here and now that I can recover my equilibrium, regardless of the markets ups and downs, no matter how important the outcome of this meeting, this sales call and regardless of targets, or concerns, no matter how dire the impending calamity may appear.

With gentle focus, non-judgmental attention on my breath in the here and now, I can surrender and experience the beauty, the mystery, the wonder and awesome possibility of now.

By shifting my focus from what might happen, to what is, I become present. It is in this becoming present that the armoring softens, the conditioned-self recedes and that new possibilities are birthed.

We need at times to focus on the future, for making plans, preparing, and organizing, but then the art of it is to recall ourselves back from the future, to the gift of the present: this precious and delicious breath of life.