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Leading People in Times of Uncertainty

by Pam Zucker, July 05, 2022
Leading People in Times of Uncertainty

Consistently throughout human history, leaders have stepped in to fill the void of uncertainty and guide people through change, for better or worse. Some of them have given us a lasting vision for what’s possible and iterations of their work live on with us today: Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs. Some have pioneered paths for those that come after them: Billie Jean King, Malala Yousafzai, Shirley Chisolm. Some of them have reconnected us with the deepest part of our humanity, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while others have disconnected us from our humanity, like Hitler. These leaders all possess different qualities that make them uniquely suited to their time – think of Steve Jobs’ creativity, Dr. King’s moral vision, or Billie Jean King’s tenacity.

We’re still navigating significant uncertainty and change as the COVID-19 pandemic becomes endemic and we collectively adjust to the changing times. One of the great challenges for executives and people managers right now is leading our teams in a remote or hybrid work environment. More than two years into this health crisis, some companies still struggle to connect with and motivate their people. Those who struggle seem to lead with their bottom line rather than their values; they’re engaged in a power struggle to bring people back to the office without any consensus on why they need to be there or respect for the way the pandemic reoriented people’s routines and shifted their priorities. The companies that are thriving with new workforce dynamics are led by people who seem to have a few qualities in common: clarity of vision for where the business is headed and the ability to communicate it well across the organization and one-to-one with their team members, as well as authenticity, flexibility, and most important of all, empathy. 

Within the media industry another significant transformation is happening as well, driven in part by the evolving post-COVID workforce and the fluctuating macroeconomics that are affecting everyone right now. Then there’s the evolving consumer preferences and the proliferation of new market entrants, from new streaming platforms to walled garden environments, which are accelerating that evolution. In the past few years, brands have also had to confront the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the industry and learn to articulate their values and put their money where their mouth is. 

On my recent trip to the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, I observed incredible industry leadership in action. The leaders who are paving the way through this moment of transformation have two things in common: an innovation mindset and a willingness to collaborate, even when it means doing something audacious, like partnering with ‘frenemies.’ Some of our industry’s most complex challenges won’t get resolved until we do this, like achieving standardized measurements across walled gardens. Advertising efficiency and a better consumer experience won’t be fully realized until the industry buckles up and comes together to cooperate. The leaders who are uniquely suited to this moment are those who can embrace a bold, collaborative vision that puts the good of the industry ahead of their personal gain. 

As the industry evolves and we continue to face uncertainty on a national and global scale, from economic upheaval to political turmoil and social change, I believe that we need to lead both internally and externally. We’re emerging from an era when brands and corporations were used to staying ‘above the fray’ of whatever was happening politically, but employees and customers alike rightly won’t take silence as an answer anymore. After all, companies aren’t disembodied entities that exist in a vacuum; companies are comprised of leaders who make choices that have social, economic, and political impacts. And companies are comprised of people who experience those impacts, who have mental health needs, and who are looking to their leaders for empathy and vision to navigate this moment. Employees and customers are desperate for leaders who guide with their humanity and their values. 

This might be why so many are captivated by Vladimir Zelensky’s leadership in the war between Ukraine and Russia. Many predicted that once Russia instigated a full attack on Ukraine that defeat would be swift – a matter of weeks, if not days. Nearly four months later, Ukraine is still in the fight because of Zelensky. He was dealt what felt like an impossible situation, but he embodies values-based leadership and is a gifted communicator who wields media very effectively. 

From the beginning, Zelensky was able to focus the global community on who is really responsible for the violence. In a televised speech just days before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Zelensky made a clear distinction between the Russian government and its people. He spoke directly to Russians in their own language, debunking Putin’s lies that the incursion was an effort to free Ukrainians and pleading for peace between the two nations. The compassion he showed to Russian citizens mobilized thousands of them to protest in the streets, and around the globe, people raised the Ukrainian flag in support of their fight for freedom. 

When other leaders might have fled their own nation in the face of danger, Zelensky chose to stay in Kyiv to demonstrate how much he values his homeland and his citizens. In a self-recorded video just days after Russia launched its invasion, Zelensky showed the Ukrainian people that he and his fellow Ukrainian leaders were still there with them, working tirelessly to get the resources and support they needed to fight. He has been very adept at garnering that support from the global community by balancing gratitude for what they’ve been given with the unflinching reality of their situation on the ground. The conflict in Ukraine remains dire, but somehow Zelensky has been able to maintain hope and resolve by leading with remarkable integrity.

As leaders, we’re at the intersection of several pivotal moments in political, economic, social, and commercial change. This moment will shape us as much as we shape it. Now is the time to ask ourselves what kind of leaders we want to be, what skills and qualities we need to cultivate to effectively motivate people, and how we can do so with our humanity and our values intact. 

 

About Amobee

Founded in 2005, Amobee is an advertising platform that understands how people consume content. Our goal is to optimize outcomes for advertisers and media companies, while providing a better consumer experience. Through our platform, we help customers further their audience development, optimize their cross channel performance across all TV, connected TV, and digital media, and drive new customer growth through detailed analytics and reporting. Amobee is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singtel, one of the largest communications technology companies in the world.

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