CEO Coaching: The Unpredictable Leader

One of the top concerns for CEOs at this point in time is political uncertainty. Biden or Trump[*]? And then there are all the downstream races, the effect on administrative polices, trade and labor implications, let alone defense spending and our position in the world. If you are like many of my clients, it drives you a bit insane and keeps you off balance.

You’ll have to look to the historians and social scientists to understand how we got here, but what you can ponder is whether you might inadvertently be creating a similar experience in your company.

I suspect that you know that your people all want clarity, safety and predictability along with an engaging work environment. I also suspect that you understand how hard this is to provide. And, my experience is that most CEOs believe that they are doing pretty well in those areas but they are not. I’ve seen this many times. And these are most often intelligent, caring leaders!

The parallel between the current political climate and the atmosphere within a company is startlingly close. Just as citizens grapple with the ever-changing policies and leadership styles, employees often struggle under the weight of leadership unpredictability. Leaders who are inconsistent in their decision-making, communication, and management style can create an environment of uncertainty and confusion. This parallels the impact of political instability on a national level.

The first step in addressing this is awareness. Recognize that your actions and decisions, as a leader, set the tone for the entire organization. When leaders are unpredictable, it can lead to a culture of anxiety and mistrust. Employees may become hesitant to take initiative or make decisions, fearing the unknown reaction of their leader.

Consistency doesn’t mean being rigid or unchanging. It’s about setting clear expectations, being transparent in your communication, and following through on your commitments. It means being the same leader in crisis as you are in calm, providing a steady hand that guides rather than jerks the wheel.

Furthermore, consider the impact of your leadership style on your company’s culture. A culture that’s built with stability and predictability fosters an environment where employees feel safe to innovate, take risks, and challenge the status quo. This culture becomes a competitive advantage in an unpredictable world.

Finally, be open to feedback. Often, leaders are unaware of the impact of their unpredictability. Encourage an open dialogue with your team and be receptive to their perspectives. This not only helps you grow as a leader but also strengthens the trust and bond within your team.

While the world may be unpredictable, you should strive for consistency, clarity, and openness. By doing so, you create an environment where your team can thrive and execute with confidence.

[*] I’m a fan of neither, but when it comes to unpredictable, Trump trumps. As The Economist (March 30, 2024) notes, John Bolton, Trump’s former national security advisor, says “the former president has no consistent principles, only moods, grudges and an obsession with his image.”

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