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5 keys to leading in disruption - Visibility


The company had been very successful and then all of a sudden, sales and profits had started to tumble.

These were unprecedented times.

The school had done well for a number of years, scoring in the top 25% of school nationally, and yet now, with this change of cohort that had come in in the last two years, scores were dropping rapidly and the schools commissioner was starting to ask for meetings with the head.

These were unprecedented times.

The charity was well known and popular with everyone and was having real impact with the people group it served. The team was so co-ordinated and focused but now they were broken, devastated at the news that Sandra, their much-loved deputy CEO had passed away. You could tell they were numb. Shell shocked.

These were unprecedented times.

Perhaps you are fed up with the phrase ‘unprecedented times’ but leaders need to know and understand there are some key things that are needed when leading people in ‘unprecedented’, disruptive and uncertain times.

Over the next 5 weeks we will look at the 5 keys for leading in disruption and uncertainty. How to lead at a time when the organisation has not been in this place before requires these 5 things

  • Visibility

  • Authenticity

  • Storyteller

  • Prioritise

  • Non-binary problem solving


How often do we use this word ‘visibility’? Maybe when driving, ‘visibility was poor’. When you are trying to see your way and the rain or fog hinders you knowing where you are going or where the danger is. Maybe when needing to be seen, ‘wear high visibility clothing’. When there could be danger for you not to be seen, for example when running or cycling on the road or working on a building site. Visibility is important to see and be seen. The same applies for leaders when leading in disruption and uncertainty.

See and be seen.

Firstly – see. Spend time with your people to see what they are going through. Look with all of your senses to understand how they feel at this time.

Secondly – be seen. When people are in uncertain times, they can’t see the way ahead. It creates uncertainty. The one thing that will help them is knowing that their leader is there with them. That they can speak to them about what is happening. The leader will not always have all the answers but what they can do is let them know that they are going through this together.

In the last school that I was headteacher at, we had the sad moment when one of our much-loved colleagues died. It was hard for everyone and what was important was that I spent time with the team. Not giving answers, because there weren’t any. Not giving unrealistic promises, because those are not helpful. But just being seen amongst them, listening, understanding their grief and letting them know that we would journey this together.

What is the impact of ‘See and Be Seen’? Leaders that walk with their team at these times build deep levels of commitment. They know that you are with them in their times of uncertainty and so they will walk with you. You will have opportunity to chat to them, to guide them in the direction that you will be taking. You will create visibility for the way forward and enable them to buy into that direction. You will help to break down ‘silo thinking’ and direct people towards the core purpose at the time to get the organisation through the period of uncertainty.

There is some human psychology, that when you are looking for something you will see more of it. Your mind filter will be open. For example, you buy a new car, a bright red mini. All of a sudden you will start to see more bright red minis. Not because there has been an increase in red mini sales, but because you are open to seeing it. The same then starts to happen when a leader makes themselves more visible. Staff see them more. When they see them more, they become reassured that you are there and you are accessible.

So, if you are working in ‘unprecedented’, disruptive or uncertain times. ‘See and be Seen’ as a leader.

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