There’s a part of every one of us that craves certainty. It’s human nature. But I’m increasingly of the belief that there’s tremendous value in uncertainty. The problem is that uncertainty is often so unsettling that we miss out on the benefits. Another problem is that we stigmatize uncertainty. Uncertainty isn’t on the list of top leadership attributes or something we look for in a commander in chief. But maybe it should be.
When I think about the times that I’m uncertain it’s almost always because there’s not a simple answer or course of action. Typically I’m uncertain when I’m faced with a complicated scenario. But when I dig a little deeper, and hopefully you’d agree, much of the stuff of our daily lives is surprisingly complex– we just don’t treat it that way. Uncertainty is a state of being that acknowledges the often ignored complexity of life. Uncertainty is a state of being that, by definition, involves suspending judgment, dwelling with discomfort, and remaining focused on process rather than outcome.
When I think about uncertainty in these terms it does become a leadership quality. To be uncertain is to refuse to rush to judgment, to embrace complexity, and to force oneself to be process-oriented when tackling life’s challenges.