“Tolerance of ambiguity” is appearing more and more often in leadership competencies and interview questions for leaders at all levels in higher education. Many of of us are used to regarding decision-making as a black and white, EITHER/OR process. We are now realizing the importance of the gray space of BOTH/AND that lies in the middle of most critical decisions.
How can we help ourselves and our team members get used to working in ambiguity? Can we move beyond tolerance to even enjoying it?
In this blog on dealing with ambiguity, Colin Shaw proposed ten steps to help. His focus was the business world, but the concepts apply in higher ed as well.
- Suppress your urge to control things.
- Learn to act without the complete big picture.
- Accept that some of your decisions will be wrong.
- Develop flexibility.
- Learn to deal with uncertainty.
- Realize there is no defined “big plan” to work from.
- Be confident.
- Listen to your voice.
- Listen to advice from others.
- Learn to deal with stress.
For me, suppressing the urge to control things and find the “right” answer has been a leadership challenge. As Shaw says, sometimes a wrong decision is better than no decision at all. There have been times when I needed to make the best choice I could based on the information I had, and then move confidently forward.
Having a supportive leader was important in my process of learning to deal with ambiguity. What can you do to help yourself and your team members successfully navigate an ambiguous world?
Dee Anne Bonebright