Uncertainty in life and work can derail a career. Or it can be an opportunity to lead.
Executive Development Group partner Randy White, whose recently published ebook Relax, It’s Only Uncertainty, teaches executive MBA students in global business schools how to become better leaders by confronting uncertainty by developing eight “enablers”:
- Motivated by mysteries
- Risk tolerant
- Scan ahead
- Tackle tough issues
- Create excitement
- Be flexible
- Be a simplifier
- Be focused
The eight enablers—the skills and capabilities that will enable you to embrace ambiguity and handle your own uncertainty—are central Relax, It’s Only Uncertainty and are balanced out by eight “restrainers” that inhibit the ability to manage uncertainty.
The enablers provide a quick check list for one’s own self-assessment and are derived from and validated by White’s three decades of executive coaching, consultation and teaching. White is co-head of leadership at HEC Paris and Doha.
White’s work—including his co-authored assessment, The Ambiguity Architect—suggests a correlation between high performing executives and their better-than-average ability to process and master uncertainty. Additionally, this involves behaviors that can be learned by anyone.
So mastering uncertainty might make you a better leader, in addition to assuaging your anxiety.
In more detail, each enabler can be described by behaviors as follows:
Mystery-Seekers are curious people who are attracted to areas that are unknown and to problems that appear to have no obvious solution.
Risk-Tolerators can make decisions when necessary despite incomplete information and will tolerate the risk of failure. They are not hampered by insufficient or ambiguous data.
Future-Scanners have the ability to question deeply and make links between apparently different pieces of information, while being constantly on the lookout for even the faintest signals of what the future might hold.
Tenacious Challengers resolutely pursue difficult and challenging issues and problems. This skill is most often seen in inventors and start-up artists, and is sometimes perceived as the entrepreneurial part of entrepreneurs. They are at home with conflict.
Exciters create excitement and energy at work not just for themselves but also enthuse others around them.
Flexible Adjusters are able to make adjustments in the face of problems and to be able to sell those adjustments.
Simplifiers are able to get to the essence of something and to communicate it to others in such a way that they not only understand it, but become enthused and committed to it.
Focusers know what are the few most important things to do or keep a watchful eye on no matter what else may be going on and however many options beckon.