The February 2012 issue of Chief Learning Officer offers a special report on leadership development that makes an effective and topical preamble for The Ambiguity Architect and our work in understanding the importance of managing uncertainty as it relates to leadership.
“Now you’ve got to work with huge amounts of ambiguity, help other people do that too, and manage risk,” she said. “You’re always trying new things, pushing the edge of the envelope — and you have to enable your teams to experience and also let them fail. That’s a whole set of leadership capability that we really didn’t have a huge dose of to start with.”—Diane Gherson, vice president of talent at IBM, CLO Magazine
That’s pretty specific to our work, but the report also describes an environment in which leadership is “granted” and subjective and harder to teach. All of this points to the value of ambiguity tolerance as a leadership trait.
For instance, globalization has forced GE’s leaders to think and manage in multiple layers, making critical thinking a top skill. They must have an acute sense of how these complex layers relate, and be able to assimilate business strategies across cultures. That is the framework in which executive leadership — across all global organizations — now operates.
“The information age has changed the world of leaders,” said Jeff Barnes, senior manager of global learning at GE. “Information is so quick. You don’t have time to really stop and think about it … your job [as a leader] has gotten so much more complicated.”