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Leadership when its Foggy

October 27, 2016

Have you ever found yourself in a fog, either personally or as a leader?

Meteorologically, fog is made up of condensed water droplets which are the result of the air being cooled to the point where it can no longer hold all of the water vapor it contains. (No, I did not remember this from science class. I looked it up on weatherquestions.com)

fog-picIn life, fog appears when the activities that put air into our sails are cooled. Mentally, emotionally, socially, or spiritually we believe we cannot hold the water vapour of our life. In leadership, fog appears when the situations that put air into our organizations sails are cooled. Again, a leader feels s/he is in a fog because there is no place to hold the water vapor.

The fog means we cannot see more than the day (or hours) in front of us. We believe there is more to our journey than the small portion that is visible, but we certainly cannot see what lies ahead… and we sometimes don`t know if we want to see further ahead.

Sometimes fog hangs around for a few hours, even a day or so. Most of the time it lingers in the morning and then dissipates gradually, becoming clear by noon. The fog doesn’t always disappear so quickly in life or leadership. Nonetheless, there are things a person can do to help the fog clear.

Encourage a few people. Fog usually appears in a person’s life because heavy situations weigh upon them. They cannot see because they have received discouraging or dark news, sometimes on multiple fronts. No matter what someone may say to try to boost the person’s spirits, it doesn’t change the reality of the situation. However, if the fogged person can push him/herself to go visit others and thank them for their friendship, for good work they are doing on a project, for faithful and consistent labor towards a long-term goal, they will find the fog lifting.

The fog alleviates partly because they have moved out beyond the heaviness of the situation, even momentarily, and partly because they have encouraged someone in the midst of a discouraging context.

Gain perspective. Leaders need to get another assessment of the situation from some outside source (someone not with them in the fog). Carey Nieuwhof has shared about the need for a leader to have a personal board – a group of individuals s/he can call upon, whether to gain perspective on a decision or issue or just to talk. A phone call to a key friend of fellow leader who you can talk about the situation with and see where your personal fog is coming from is beneficial. It can either help you dump some of the excess water vapor or provide another container to share the storage. As you share, they may also be able to see positives you were not aware of (ie. warm up some of the cool air).

Wait. As with meteorological fog, sometimes the only solution to personal or leadership fog lifting is time. It will eventually dissipate. Your responsibility is to continue your regular routines and let time gradually remove the unclarity. The circumstances may or may not change as time progresses. Your perspective on the situation may become clearer as time passes. Only time can move some fog.

A leader is guaranteed times when s/he will have to walk in the fog. Do you have other practices you have found helpful as you lead in or through the fog?

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