The Power of Uncertain Leadership


During the uncertain times in which we find ourselves, it may be helpful to recognize that having all the answers is really not the best way to lead. Read that again. Take a deep breath. And let me explain.

First of all, do not confuse confidence with certainty. They are very different things. In fact, it takes a good deal of confidence to acknowledge that you aren’t certain . . . that you don’t have all the answers, BUT you have every faith that you and your team can find a path forward. It is your confidence, not your certainty, that assures your people you will make it through the current challenge.

We identify things as “challenges” because they are different from the status quo. Therefore, trying to transfer your sense of mastery . . . what you are certain about . . . your proven approach to normal operations . . .  can actually get in the way of figuring out how to successfully navigate the abnormal situation before you.

Here’s the good news:  Uncertainty pushes you to seek novel ideas, to look at the situation with fresh eyes, to connect seemingly unrelated variables and try new things. That’s why breakthrough performance is far more likely to be the result of uncertainty — when you are certain you have all the answers, there is less motivation to consider different options!

So how do you see things with fresh eyes? Ask your people. When you ask others for input, it exponentially expands the chance of finding the best path forward. It multiplies the experience, perspectives and insight being applied to the challenge at hand.  Asking tells your people that you have confidence that they can contribute to determining the best next step. Asking allows people to sit with you in the discomfort of uncertainty which, paradoxically, expands both the capabilities and the confidence of your team.

The ability to embrace uncertainty is one of the most powerful skills you can have as a leader. When you can adapt to the unexpected with a calm confidence that your organization will find a path forward — perhaps even a better one than you might otherwise have discovered — your entire staff becomes emboldened with a can-do spirit that creates a positive spiral of opportunity.

Make no mistake, if you have the confidence to embrace uncertainty, amazing things can happen. Of that, I am certain.

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