As a 21st century leader you will confront the two headed dragon named uncertainty and complexity. A lot of leaders are unable to successfully combat this dragon; as a result, their organisations and teams suffer the consequences. They simply get overwhelmed and fall prey to the dragon. I will tackle the first dragon head (uncertainty) in this post and then address complexity in the next post.
Leaders are required to make decisions in the face of great uncertainty and are judged on the success or failure of such decisions. A great lesson in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008 is that the elimination of uncertainty is an illusion. Global financial institutions tried to control both risk and uncertainty using complicated algorithms developed by some of the smartest people in the world but they failed spectacularly and dragged the world into a massive recession.
A lot of energy is spent by some leaders to try to eliminate uncertainty in their decision making but their time can be better spent on seeking clarity. Leaders who pursue the elimination of uncertainty dogmatically are on a fool’s errand.
The antidote to uncertainty is clarity. Leaders take others on a journey they sometimes haven’t travelled, but the clarity of a compelling leadership vision shows the direction to go as leaders navigate uncertain terrains.
“None of us want to be wrong especially as leaders. But next generation leaders must fear a lack of clarity more than a lack of accuracy. You can be wrong and people will continue to follow. If you are unclear, however they will eventually go somewhere else. You can survive being wrong. You can’t survive being unclear.” (Andy Stanley)
It is important to note that as leaders, we can’t know everything about the activity or vision we are engaged with. We can’t foresee or predict or prepare for every possible scenario that can occur in the future hence the need for adaptability. We need to plan, but we also need to be flexible because things rarely ever go precisely to plan. There are so many variables that can derail a leadership plan or strategy. Some leaders allow the uncertainty of life to paralyse them from taking action based on the limited information they have and their organisation suffers for their indecision.
Effective leaders thrive when confronted with uncertainty. You can’t escape uncertainty as a leader but you can embrace the opportunities it provides you to lead with clarity.