The beauty of Apple's products was their singular, clear vision. Whether it is the iPhone, iPod, or Macintosh, the product was clearly designed with its purpose--Steve Job's vision of what the product should be. By contrast, Farhead Mohat's biggest complaint about his Android phone is that it seems to be designed by a committee. Although it is "the most powerful phone" on the market, people don't love it because they don't understand its purpose--and that is the beauty of Steve Jobs' leadership. He knew what he wanted and fearlessly pushed for that result. He didn't need focus groups or committees to validate his vision. He did not seem to wrestle with uncertainty. He boldly pushed forward and was right often enough.
I have been wrestling with leading through uncertainty as I read Jonathon Field's book: Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance. I have been fortunate to lead our Haiti office through a time of change as we have tried to move from being a good organization to being a great one. When I preordered the book, I was hoping for suggestions on how to be more certain that the path that I had taken was the right one. I thought the discussion would be on the importance of establishing a strong baseline and clear milestones to be able to track progress. Instead, the book talks about meditating and being comfortable with uncertainty. If I had merely read the book and put it aside, I would not have gotten much out of it.
Fortunately, the preorder deal allowed me to participate in a series of teleconferences and to listen to his interviews with two of the people highlighted in the book. What I learned surprised me. I learned that the ability to work through uncertainty--to neither run from it nor to allow yourself to be immobilized by the fear that it brings--is a rare and valuable skill. A key value that a strong leader brings to an organization is to reduce the uncertainty for the rest of the team by providing a clear vision--in effect absorbing the uncertainty so that others don't have to. After all, any path to great results cannot be a certain one or everyone else would already be walking down it.
I don't have Steve Jobs arrogance, but I find it easier to live with uncertainty knowing that not only is it critical to leading teams in new directions, but it is a service that I am providing to my team.
How do you deal with uncertainty?