April 08, 2009 The best leaders have a high tolerance for ambiguity. They don't go nuts over the unknown, and they don’t lose patience upon intermittent disappointments. They are able to work with what they know, identify what they don’t know, and make decisions accordingly. They also act with a faith in the law of averages. Over time, truth has a way of revealing itself.
A common occurrence in any organization is what I have come to call “momentary injustice.” One of the most extraordinary leaders I worked with while at Goldman Sachs was then Vice-Chairman Rob Kaplan who said it best, "Justice prevails over time in any good organization - but justice does not prevail at any given point in time." A good leader, Rob believed, was able to overlook missed credit or an unfair project assignment through faith in the course of an organization’s growth.
There are laws of economics and human behavior that, over time, bring clarity and fairness to any situation. But impatient and impulsive leaders are liable to stumble during short-term periods of ambiguity. Their judgment becomes shaky and they can lose their grounding and respect within an organization.
The best practice here is to develop a tolerance for momentary injustice and periods of ambiguity. Stay strong and stay calm as a situation settles itself over time and the clouds around any period of change start to dissipate. Your fortitude will yield greater respect and opportunity that will reward you over time.
***This article is adapted from the research and writing of Scott Belsky and the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the Action Method project management application, the Creative Jobs List, and develops knowledge, products, and services that help creative professionals make ideas happen.
Develop a Tolerance for Ambiguity
The best leaders have a high tolerance for ambiguity. They don't go nuts over the unknown, and they don’t lose patience upon intermittent di