How to Lead When Things Are Vague

How to Lead When Things Are Vague
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Forget Certainty as a Leader
The higher up you get in an organization, the more you can forget about having all the answers and seeing clearly into the future. It is just not feasible.  As much as you would like to understand all the implications and ramifications of the decisions you make as a leader, you must face the fact that many of the decisions you need to make will require that you lead when things are vague.

So how can you prepare to meet this challenge as effectively as possible?

How Leaders Can Shift to Accommodate Uncertainty
Change management consulting experts know that for things to change, you must first change as a leader.  Leaders must acquire comfort with unclear situations. Here are some adjustments that participants learn in our change management simulation that help you lead when things are vague:

  • Aim for Progress
    Accept that having all the data and perfection are not always viable options. You will make mistakes. The good news is that you can always learn from a project retrospective and tweak the direction of the team as needed.
  • Prioritize Process and Discipline over Speed
    Sure, you can make decisions faster if you neglect the situation’s complexity and whatever biases you bring to the table. But you need to apply some discipline to the decision-making process.

    Think it through objectively and from various angles before choosing a path forward.  Be ready to discuss and handle conflicting priorities and unclear situations.
  • Accept and Anticipate Ambiguity
    You are not always going to have all the data you might wish for before you decide. Change your perspective from needing to know to learning, framing, and prioritizing key assumptions and risks.

    Find out what you can, make an informed choice with your key stakeholders, and prepare your team to switch gears easily in response to unexpected demands.
  • Involve Others
    Seek help from your peers, your team, and your experts. You don’t have to make decisions all by yourself. Lean on the various experiences and viewpoints of others you respect.

    Outsiders can offer fresh ideas, relevant knowledge, and inspiration. And you will have a chance to air your thoughts and get some feedback on your plan before it’s in place.
  • Back Up for the Big Picture
    It’s all too easy to get bogged down when sorting out a complicated situation. Try looking at it more broadly. You may find that the issues settle into a pattern that suggests a heretofore invisible solution.

The Bottom Line
We know from our leadership simulation assessments that effective leaders handle ambiguity and deliver results under rapidly or continually changing circumstances. They work well in unstructured environments by following proven change and decision-making processes.  With the uncertainty and speed that prevails in today’s business environment, are your leaders prepared to lead when things are vague?

To learn more about how to lead when things are vague, download The Top Skills for High Performing Leaders

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