How to navigate uncertainty

When was the last time your work excited you? Not because of how others might reward you but because of the work itself. If the fire fades for too long, it’s likely we’ve made things too predictable for ourselves. That doesn’t mean the future really is foreseeable but that we’ve relied on a mode of behaviour to convince others (and ourselves) that we have things under control.

“Transition and uncertainty are attendant to any path.” – Sarah Levitt, Magnificent Leadership

Avoiding uncertainty is a lot of work and can drain even the most driven leaders. Not least because it can’t be done. The question is not whether we will stay ahead of the game but how we will respond when we realise the roll of the dice is not in our hands.

Unknown opportunities

“Uncertainty introduces the unknown, but in most cases, it also introduces an opportunity. How you versus the market understand, anticipate, respond and execute during uncertain times can determine whether you end up as Netflix or Blockbuster.” –  Gary S. Lynch, The Uncertainty Advantage

If we can recognise the unknown as unavoidable, we can embrace it with an entirely different attitude. When we stop depending on the illusion of control we can be present in the moment of change and shape it to our advantage. The alternative is to begin the transition into irrelevancy.

“Instead of aiming for unique accomplishments, the intense desire to succeed leads us to strive for guaranteed success.” – Adam Grant, Originals

Embracing the unknown isn’t just a principle for starting market trends though. It’s a way to keep an entire organisation growing in the daily grind. When we reward originality over target delivery, our employees are more likely to remain inspired and optimistic – key ingredients for creativity and productivity. When our model says “It’s ok to make a mistake” from the top down, our entire team can become adventurers, finding opportunities that we would otherwise miss.

The creativity of the unknown

Did you know that you can see more at night than the day? Daylight brings our locality into focus, but the absence of clarity allows us to see a galaxy far greater than our own isolated existence. A similar principle is true in leadership. While everything is in focus, we tend not to look beyond ourselves. We question our own thinking less and presume our way is correct.

Embracing the unknown forces us to question our old models of behaviour and the underlying beliefs that have justified them. Introspectively taking apart our assumptions about control and success allows us to think in new ways that would not have occurred to us before. It means our blind spots can be exposed and dysfunctional aspects of our business can be cured. If we don’t ask difficult questions we won’t grow beyond our underlying fears. And if we don’t embrace the unknown we won’t have a reason to confront them.

“The real heroism of leadership involves having the courage to face reality — and helping the people around you to face reality.” – Ron Heifetz, founder of the Center for Public Leadership

The certainty of uncertainty

“If I want to be secure, that is, protected from the flux of life, I am wanting to be separate from life. Yet it is this very sense of separateness which makes me feel insecure.” – Ron Heifetz

If we continue to think of uncertainty as an enemy, we will not grow. We may be promoted by our capacity to please but our capacity to lead will remain stunted. But what if? What if we are only at the beginning of discovering our creativity, courage, potential – and that of our team? What if we uncover a dysfunctional belief that has held us back for years – and we move beyond it? What if uncertainty is the opportunity we were waiting for?

“There is no certainty, only adventure” – Roberto Assagioli

Want more insight on how to move forward? Get in touch with us to find out how we can help.


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