4 Times When a Leader Must Embrace Confusion

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Leaders are expected to drive for clarity. They’re expected to “blow the fuzz out of the system”.

But sometimes effective leaders will very deliberately and strategically embrace an element of confusion for as long as possible.

When should a leader resist bringing clarity and allow, even embrace, confusion?

There are at least four times when it can be an advantage to maintain an element of uncertainty:

1.   When there’s an empty role in the organization

In an earlier post I explained why you should sometimes keep a role vacant as long as possible.

In short, the uncertainty caused by a vacant position can often be more than offset by seeing how others on your team step up.

2.   When someone wants a new job description

Job descriptions can be important. And your staff should understand what is expected of them.

But, within reason, it can be worthwhile to take your time before establishing, or re-establishing, someone’s job description.

Sometimes you want to see how the person is performing amid a changing work environment before prematurely declaring the details of their role.

3.   When a specific responsibility is unassigned

Your team might be in your office all day asking, “Who’s job is it to perform that function?”

Part of you wants to assign someone right away. But another part of you wants to keep it “fuzzy” a while longer, to see who might rise up on their own and seize that responsibility.

Pay attention to that part, and keep the role unassigned for as long as possible.

4.   When people want to know how you want a job done

You should provide clarity on desired outcomes. But keep the method to achieve those results completely ambiguous for as long as possible.

See if your team can come up with an innovative approach without you providing a roadmap.

In the long run, or course, you can’t keep ambiguity hanging in the air. There will be negative consequences eventually.

But when you strategically keep an element of ambiguity, there can be surprising wins for the organization.

And those results will be crystal clear.

Have there been times when you have deliberately allowed lack of clarity in your organization?


the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Global Leadership Network. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave, Willow, Olive & Charlie and John, Fiona, Will & Harvey. Lifelong learner.

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