BLOG: Leadership Insights

Get Email Updates

Why uncertain times need certainty of purpose

May 19, 2017 Richard Leider

Executive coach Richard Leider is widely recognized for his work helping leaders discover the power of purpose. His sage advice about finding purpose gives us the opportunity to look inward; to discover new things about ourselves—and to lead differently. We’re thrilled that he’ll be joining us as co-chair of our Global Institute for Leadership Development® Asia, July 17-21, 2017 in Singapore. He will help our participants tackle big questions like: “Why would someone choose to follow me?” and “Am I on a path to becoming a great leader?”

Growing up, I envisioned a future that was predictable enough. If I studied hard, I would get to do the work that I wanted in an environment where I felt appreciated and understood. I would work hard and live a successful “good life.”

Our careers today are rarely that certain.

The way that I was taught to think and act works well when the future is predictable, but not so much in today’s VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world. We tend to write off abstract thinking about our work lives as a luxury that we can’t afford. The emphasis is on staying employed, no matter how much of a personal toll our work is taking on us physically and emotionally. It’s pretty scary when you can’t plan or control your destiny, let alone the work you want.

So, how can we find some sense of certainty? If we want to play in the new work game, as it is now, we have to change our mindset.

Freedom “to,” not “from”
This simple phrase has changed the way I relate to uncertainty.

Freedom is born of awareness. Freedom to means awakening to the reality that we can choose for ourselves how we want to interact with the new work world (and the daily VUCA news).

Freedom to means recognizing what’s happening in both our inner and outer worlds—and then acting on and trusting our own deeper wisdom or guide.

While everything outside seems to be shifting, what remains unchanging is what we know inside—our core purpose, values and beliefs.

Freedom to means staying fiercely aware and protective of what is most important to each of us to lead a life of substance and fulfillment.

Freedom to is about taking back the steering wheel of our lives and refusing to become VUCA’s passenger, limping along aimlessly as we hear the daily sirens signaling bad news.

So, how do we wake up from being asleep at the wheel?

Creating Certainty Amid the Uncertainty
Purpose provides the bones for the body of life—the human story. What I observe in my coaching practice is that many people, especially today, feel increasingly disconnected from a sense of context, meaning, and the great human narrative. Instead, they speak about being too busy, hurrying too much, and not knowing what their lives are supposed to be about.

They are desperate to feel connected to something more lasting than their momentary dramas and distractions. The ceaseless activity creates a feeling of shallowness. Instant and trivial is how it is—this is the opposite of grounded purposefulness. They hope their real lives will one day have the certainty that real life is supposed to carry, yet is steadily slipping away.

It’s critical to take hold of the steering wheel. To reflect on life. To reflect on our roles as leaders. To consider where we fit into the larger human story and what purpose our individual and shared journeys hold.

So, how do you grab the steering wheel and get started on concrete actions that are consistent with your desires? How do you find core certainty in uncertain times?

The process for planning your future when you can’t really plan looks like this:


Does This Overwhelm You?
How do I know this approach will work? Because it already has. The process works if you work the process. After reading this, you probably feel a bit overwhelmed, because it seems like a lot of work.

Want to know why you feel this way? Because it is a lot of work.

Creating your life the way you want, so that you feel a sense of certainty from it, requires a commitment to yourself to take actions every day. There are no magic buttons or pills that will get you there.

So my question to you is this…

“Are you willing to do what it takes to create a life you love?”

You have two choices…

Choice #1: You can continue on the path you are on right now. There is nothing wrong with going this route. However, this path is very uncertain.


Choice #2: You can grab the steering wheel and begin the “What Works” practices, which will help you speed up the process so you can get where you want to go much faster.

Which do you prefer?

Whatever choices you make today will affect where you will be in your life one year from now, because it takes that long for you to see the results of your practices.

So, tell us—once you’ve had a chance to reflect on these questions—what’s changed for you?

Dark haired woman watches from audience of conference event

Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

Posted In

Blog|Leadership Development

Enrich Your inbox

with timely, relevant leadership insights

Join more than 15,000 others and subscribe to Linkage Leadership Insights: your resource for leadership development-related topics that matter to you, from the advancement of women leaders to diversity and inclusion and purposeful leadership. Plus, get all the latest Linkage news delivered to your inbox.

Related Posts

All Insights

Start Your Journey

Speak with a Linkage expert today