What does it mean to be a leader in an uncertain world?

To quote the great John C. Maxwell, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

In these unprecedented times, leadership should not be defined by an individual’s title, level, or tenure but by the impact they make on their team members. It is neither a rat race to prove yourself better than others, nor something that promotes monotony and homogeneity across an organization.

I believe that true leadership is about bringing out the best in people and encouraging them to deliver their 100 percent.

As we move forward in an increasingly dynamic and tech-driven 21st Century, we enter a world that is full of paradoxes and ethical dilemmas. To successfully navigate this world and overcome the odds, the very essence of leadership needs to be examined and redefined.

Here are my thoughts on what it means to be a leader in these challenging times.

Realize your limitations

Resilience is the key to managing crisis, but how can you handle unpredictable situations that force you to make tough decisions?

As a leader, you need to realize that it is okay to be vulnerable at times and not have the answer to all pressing questions. You should consider sharing your challenges with the people you trust and seeking their advice.

I also believe taking responsibility is key to this process. In my case, I try to pursue the truth while accepting my own boundaries and limitations, and this allows me to make objective and informed decisions. I also believe in re-evaluating decisions and taking corrective actions if something changes.

Stay clear & focused

Our daily work habits, including how we multi-task, make quick decisions, and even function on little sleep, all have a tremendous impact on our brain and its ability to process, store, and recall information. Some habits impact our brain functions linked to creativity and innovation, while other behaviors affect our logical reasoning skills.

Our leadership journey starts with the prefrontal cortex, also called our “rational brain.” It helps us with strategic thinking, deciphering complex ideas, making long-term decisions, solving problems, and maintaining self-control.

Despite its remarkable abilities, the prefrontal cortex cannot process too much information at once. The brain’s inability to process excessively large chunks of data is why people often feel overstimulated.

In an organization, one of the biggest ways people are overstimulated is when they perceive threats and rewards in the environment. These environmental triggers have an impact on our cognitive skills. When our job security and autonomy feel compromised, we tend to feel threatened.

Being a leader means achieving clarity and objectivity, looking at the big picture, connecting the dots, and canceling the noise. Effective leaders, with a clear mind can turn strategic goals into actionable plans, and they can provide a better direction for the people around them.

Cultivate positivity

As Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy states, humans tend to fulfill their basic needs, like food, water, and shelter, first. Next, they must fulfill their psychological needs, such as friends and companionship. Once the first two needs are met, we want to satisfy our self-fulfillment needs, where we seek a sense of purpose.

As we satisfy our needs, our brain feels rewarded and boosts our creative and problem-solving skills simultaneously. We look for ways to collaborate with others.

I believe a leader is one who generates positive energy and maintains a positive attitude that inspires people to look beyond their individual self and work towards a shared purpose. Leaders can inspire optimism, creativity, and growth by modeling positive, constructive behavior. Great leaders recognize that they set a precedent for their team’s behavior through their own attitude and actions so that everyone can focus on creative problem-solving and collaborating rather than more basic needs.

Understanding who we are and what we value, recognizing and embracing our responsibilities, and implementing a leadership model that encompasses compassion and empathy are some of the ways we can move forward in these challenging times. The way we navigate the uncertainties of today will define sound and effective leadership in the years to come.


Roberto Croci is the Managing Director for Microsoft for Startups MEA. With over 20 years’ experience working for the likes of Microsoft and Google, Roberto Croci’s passion lies in innovation, startups and PEOPLE. Relationship driven, he has bridged the gap between corporates and startups across more than 20 countries, helping them develop real solutions that solve real world problems.