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In the Aftermath of Brexit: Leading Through Ambiguity

Insight

24 June 2016

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The future of work literature has long painted a picture of a new business world that is complex, fast changing and less predictable. Today, this prediction hit home with full force. UK voted out.

While uncertainty has been bubbling for months, this leap into the unknown means, now more than ever, businesses need leaders who can not only tolerate ambiguity but thrive in it.

Research shows how ambiguous situations instinctively spark our brains into a two-fold reaction; first we go into a state of hyper-vigilance (urgently looking for new information and patterns), then we look for closure (seeking affirmation from those around us, while also aligning our decision with our existing beliefs).1  

Unfortunately though this automatic reaction leaves us, and our organisation, pretty exposed in times of uncertainty. Driven by this primitive response a leader is more likely to deny or dismiss inconsistent evidence, make a rushed or overly-delayed decision, and actively ignore errors.2  In the aftermath of Brexit, the leaders who flourish will be the ones who overcome this instinct. They’ll embrace the challenge uncertain times bring, suspend judgement, stay curious and provide clarity to others where possible.3

At Lane4 we often talk about controlling the controllable’s; no one knows how the full implications of Brexit will play out, but continued uncertainty is, in a bizarre way, the only thing that we can be sure of. So, control the controllable: prepare your leaders to lead well through this time of change. Cultivate leaders who can surf the uncertain wave, quickly identify trends and leverage potential opportunities that may arise.

 

 

References

1. Holmes, J. (2015). Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing. New York: Crown Publishing Group.

2. McLain, D. L., Kefallonitis, E. and Armani, K. (2015). Ambiguity tolerance in organizations: definitional clarification and perspectives on future research. Frontiers in Psychology, 6.

3. Johnson, P. (2015). Avoiding Decision Paralysis in the Face of Uncertainty. Harvard Business Review.

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