Leading in the face of uncertainty

Posted by | February 07, 2014 | Entrepreneurship | No Comments

Entrepreneur Magazine recently published an article asking the question, “What are the characteristics of an entrepreneur?”

James V. Koch gave this answer:

“Entrepreneurs are different. They have the ability to deal with uncertainty, to take risks and tolerate ambiguity.”

Part of the definition of entrepreneurship involves handling the unknown. It’s not about creating a situation where everything is predictable and linear. It’s about casting a vision without knowing how to get there, then following through to make it happen.

But I want to take this a step further. Certainly this is true about entrepreneurship, but it’s also true about leadership of any capacity.

The definition of leading is to go out in front. It’s to be first and to move forward in the face of uncertainty, and let’s be honest – people HATE uncertainty.

This is why leadership and entrepreneurship are meaningful, yet challenging callings.

You don’t get the advantage of someone telling you what to do, following their instructions and if it fails laying the blame on them.

When you lead, you take a risk.

When you take a risk, you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.

And when it turns out badly, you take the blame.

That’s entrepreneurship and that’s leadership.

We should learn to love it. Trust me, it’s better to lead. It’s better to head off into the unknown, trying to make something happen. The reality is, nobody ever knows what’s next. This whole world is unpredictable, and those who separate themselves are not the ones who can manage effectively enough to reduce uncertainty – but those who can confidently stride into the unknown and make the most of what happens.

But here’s a key distinction Andy Stanley makes in his book, Next Generation Leader.

Stanley says,

“As leaders we can afford to be uncertain, but we cannot afford to be unclear.”

What separates good leaders and good entrepreneurs from wannabes, is that they know where they are going. They don’t know how it’s going to work or what the results will be, but they have a vision of doing something.

Leaders have a vision of making things better. They are passionate about something they want to see in their community. And so they move forward.
This vision and passion is the only way to manage the unknown. Like I said at the beginning, uncertainty is scary. There’s no getting around that. Entrepreneurs and leaders are just as realistic about the unknown as anybody else.

The difference is they have a clear vision that matters so much they are willing to move forward in the face of uncertainty.

The challenge for you is to find that clear vision. “We cannot afford to be unclear.” What are you going for? What’s your goal?

And when you know that, you have to move. You have to move forward. There will never be a time where you’ve planned out every step of the way, and every dollar that makes your goal legitimate.

You have to step out into the unknown, and make the best decisions you can in the face of uncertainty.

That’s what leadership is all about.

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