INTRODUCTION " If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts, but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. " ALIGN="right">-Francis Bacon (1605) The Advancement of Learning Welcome to uncertainty What shall I do about that new venture? Those sales predictions? That business launch? How shall I handle that issue concerning my customer, my boss, or even my partner? The chances arethat as you are reading this you are carrying with you several decisions that you have been putting off, but will soon have to face. These decisions will no doubt be a mix of big and small, personal and work-oriented, and everything in between. Ask yourself this question: how confidently, really, are you facing up to these decisions and the actions that you will need to take? What's more, how certain do you feel about theoutcomes? Do you have all the information that you need to make the decisions or will you have to take a chance and make a decision even though you aren't sure? How many of those decisions will lead to unchartedterritory or uncomfortable and emotional discussions? How many of these issues are surrounded by uncertainty? ... Feeling relaxed and confident? ... We thought not! Uncertainty causes stress, and it is difficult to be relaxed when you're feeling stressed. Yet this is the age of uncertainty. In this book we are going to propose that we, you and everyone else on theplanet are facing rising levels of uncertainty in our lives. How can we cope? That is what this book is about, and we want to tackle this issue ina very pragmatic and practical way. Start with behavior We have spent the last ten years looking at which behaviors help people cope most effectively with uncertainty. Later in this book we describe specific behaviors and methods of learning those behaviors which help people cope with uncertainty. The behaviors have been known for millennia, but they have been known by a very small group of people who found themselves in leadership roles. To be an effective leader you need to make decisions, and often those decisions are in the face of a lot of uncertainty. The more uncertainty that surrounds a decision, the more the call for leadership. But people in leadership roles are frequently unprepared or unable to admit to the rest of the world the ambiguity they face and the feelings of uncertainty they feel as a result of that ambiguity. Indeed, it was often believed that for a leader to admit to being uncertain was anoutright failure of their leadership. But that was then and this is WOW! (Thanks, Tom Peters.) Now with the almost universal distribution of information via electronic networks, a proportion of the world's population has access to an enormous range of data. Suddenly all of us areaware of the uncertainties and ambiguities that face leaders. So what can we learn? The first part of this book will describe behaviors to cope effectively with increasing levels of ambiguity. Leaders, leaders everywhere But if I'm using leadership behaviors, doesn't that make me a leader? you may ask. Yes, of course. Everyone's a leader now. But surely there's a lot more to leadership than handling ambiguity? What about leadership style? What about the other skills of leadership that I have already learned? Are they all redundant now? To be an effective leader in any context one of the main requirements is to assess the style and skillsneeded to be effective in that situation. In the second part of this book we help you calibrate your leadership style and the appropriate behavior needed to lead the way when the way is changing. We want to help you make sure that your behavior will fit the context. The real work of leadership is embracing ambiguity lf only Woody Allen's observation were true-that "80 percent of success is just showing up." Yet there seems to be a very narrow edge between certainty and uncertainty, success and failure. Leadership is what crosses the frontier between what we did yesterday and what we'll do tomorrow. We'll argue in this book that the real mark of a leader is confidence with uncertainty-the ability to admit to it and deal with it. And just to be clear, we think ambiguity is how it is, and uncertainty is how you feel about it. So the effective leader is always coping with his or her own feelings of uncertainty in the face of ambiguity. As we researched this book, we uncovered a lot of evidence showing that an enormous proportion of leadership development is done through early experience and in our everyday lives. This suggests that some of the behaviors that people use in leadership roles were not always consciously learned,but picked up along the way as they met and coped withvarious life experiences. Some had even unwittingly been schooling themselves for leadership roles and preparing themselves for the necessarycosts and sacrifices they would be required to make to achieve a position of leadership. How then can we offer to teach more appropriate behaviors? We discovered that it is not necessary to have gone through all those experiences to acquire behaviors relevant to coping with ambiguity and to feeling more relaxed about the uncertainty it produces. We've borrowed from the extensive research in leadership, and we've added our own views bolstered by talking to people in roles with considerable ambiguity and uncertainty. We've also constructed questionnaires and surveys, completed structured interviews, and applied vast numbers of mindnumbing statisticaltechniques to the data to be sure that the behavioral analysis we offer inChapters 3 and 4 are not only psychologically sound, but statistically significant. Where are the role models? Wouldn't it be nice if life were like a "feel-good" movie? You know that in the early parts of the film ourhero or heroine will go through all kinds of trials and difficulties, but by the end of the last reel things will work out fine. Oh, if only ... In a book on uncertainty we certainly can't promise you a happy ending every time! But what we canoffer is a helping hand. By following our analysis ofuncertain situations and the behavior that works with them, we believe that you can handle uncertainty more effectively. This book offers three ways that you can be more relaxed in handling the uncertainty you feel when facing life's ambiguities. First, we've identified the key skills andcapabilities-and most of the important behaviors that go with them-that help people relax when handling their uncertainty. We'll then describe some very practical ways that you can enhance your ability with those particular behaviors and thus develop your competence in those areas. Finally, we'll show you how to assess the leadership context in which you find yourself and how to choose and use appropriate behaviors to match that context. Why relax? With more choice and greater ambiguity in our lives, the rules that used to help us understand and operate in our world no longer seem to apply. We need behaviors that work in a rule-changing-maybe even a rule-free-world. Not only this, but have you noticed how the best athletes, the best artists, arguably the best performers at anything, work well in a relaxed state? The world calls for higher and higher performance in whatever field you operate. How will you achieve that in your life without being relaxed? Relaxation is preparationfor high performance. But it is not a relaxation of ignoring the issues orabandoning the problems and not making the best use of all available information. Instead, it's a relaxation that recognizes that ambiguity is a place where opportunity lives. The people who can move toward the ambiguity conquer their feelings of uncertainty and are relaxed enough to achieve the highest performance.