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Leading in Uncertain Times: Do the Best You Can

May 14, 2014

By: John Cook

Spending a few days among peers and colleagues at a conference and trade show, I was once again reminded of the uncertainty of so many things. Conversations led to discussion of the fear of uncertainty many face. Are things really getting better? Where and what will I be doing a year from now?

My theory of leadership, rather simple, yet profound to me is this: Do the best you can, while you still have the chance.

Wherever you are in your career or journey, you are called to lead. As you lead, then you take your part in making uncertain times more certain.

You begin with courage. Take a step toward the best. It does not require a huge step, rather one in the right direction. Your best requires courage.

I received a BSBA from Appalachian State University in 1978. I learned great theory in the study of business from dedicated professors who cared about me and my future; however, the best lesson came from one professor in particular. It’s all about relationships. You can take that one to the bank. Take, no make, the time to build relationships. When I think about my career, the best part is relationships. From relationships become friendships. These are the ones that stick closer, in my case, than a brother. Celebrate the friendships: maintain them, spend time together, grow together.

Be straightforward, assertive, even outspoken. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Maintain boundaries as needed. At times, you will find it necessary to detach from certain things. It is good to remain aware of the matters that weight you down.

Build a life of integrity. Just tell the truth. Learn to be transparent. No matter what you do, where you go, people are watching. You are making a difference.

Have faith to the highest degree. Make your convictions real. See the possibility that may be right in front of you. As you do this, then you are instilling hope in others.

In your own way, love politics. Speak up when necessary. If you really want to lead, then run for office. Take your place in professional organizations. My late father loved politics, campaigning, even an unsuccessful run for office in state government. His gift was the ability to talk with others on the other side of the fence, never making them mad.

Order your priorities. There is nothing wrong with a little planning. Honestly, I am an agenda driven person, even to the point of becoming obsessive about it. As you understand your priorities, you will know exactly where to lead. I have heard others say sometimes in a spiteful way, “that person has an agenda.” I am sure they do and affirm them for knowing where they are going.

Know the seed in your hand. Lay hold of the place you are in. You can lead and make a difference where you are right now. Enlarge your tent. Share the seed.

Affirm and build up. Affirm others for their leadership, their positions, their roles, and their goals. The best part of the conference I just attended was the last day, when a group of my colleagues and very close friends gathered around a large table for breakfast. The whole time was spent affirming one another and enjoying the great bond we shared.

Recover and continue on. There will be times that we have to recover. During uncertain times we will face challenge, obstacles that seem huge, transitions, and the course of life. When this happens, take time to recover, then, continue on. It may mean picking up some pieces and starting over. I think about my dad’s severe stroke that led us to his bedside to bid our farewells. He survived and lived another abundant ten years. When asked by his doctor in rehabilitation what his goal was for the rehabilitation. He answered, “I’m going to golf again.” And that he did weekly for another ten years.

Lead, while you still have the chance.

You can change anything you want. ~Brian Shannon, mentor and close friend

John Cook is Chief Client Officer for PRC (Revco Solutions) and may be reached at

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