50 Posts 50 Rules: Tom Peters on Leadership #12

12. Leaders groove on ambiguity. 

I read this rule with amusement from the perspective of “what the heck is Peters trying to say here?!” His explanation of this relatively straight forward rule seemed obtuse to me. The bottom line is that a leader looks at the world and sees that there is more than one answer to any leadership question. More than that there are permutations of interactions that when all considered reveal a vast array of possible scenarios or outcomes. What the heck am I talking about man I am starting to sound as obtuse as Peters was in his explanation. I am talking about ambiguity. There is no clear cut answer, there is not precise outcome. Just as leadership is messy leadership is uncertain and ambiguous. Not ambiguous in the sense of values and principles but in the sense of fluidity in the environment. Unexpected interactions create new and unexpected outcomes that leaders must adapt to and overcome to be effective. 

When you have done this for a while you begin to sense it, to expect it and actually begin to enjoy the uncertainty that comes with it. In a strange way the nature of uncertainty and ambiguity become almost predictable.

Challenge: Go and see an IMPROV comedy show. If you cannot find one watch Drew Carey’s Who’s Line is it Anyway. Watch the way the actors adapt to one another’s dialogue. See if you cannot place yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would interact with them. Do you have the range to adjust your behavior to an unexpected situation or do you simply overload and express shock, curiosity, anger?

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