Taking control of uncertainty is the fundamental leadership challenge of our time. We all know that life is full of uncertainties, of course. Most of those that businesses face are familiar. What’s new is structural uncertainty. It is structural because the forces now at work can explode the existing structure of your market space or your industry, putting it at risk of being drastically diminished or completely eliminated.
Steering your business through structural uncertainty calls for a distinctly different type of leadership than the one you were trained for, requiring a radically different mindset and new skills for anticipating events and going on the attack.
The advantage now goes to those who create change, not just learn to live with it. Instead of waiting and reacting, such leaders immerse themselves in the ambiguities of the external environment, sort through them before things are settled and known, set a path and steer their organization decisively onto it. Those who are best prepared to lead now have the following skills and abilities:
• Perceptual acuity: Have the mental preparedness to “see around corners” and spot potentially significant anomalies, contradictions and oddities in the external landscape ahead of others.
• A mindset to see opportunity in uncertainty: Recognize that uncertainty is an invitation to go on the attack, and be ready to take your organization to a new place and the changing landscape.
• The ability to see a new path forward and commit to it: Be willing to build whatever new capabilities you will need, which will include a high level of proficiency in the use of digitization and algorithms.
• Adeptness in managing the transition to the new path: Going on the attack may require a major shift as well as constant adjustment in setting priorities and ensuring financial health.
• Skill in making the organization steerable and agile: Linking the external realities in real time to people assignments, priorities, decision-making power, budgeting and capital allocation and key performance indicators.
Taking advantage of the landscape that is emerging will almost certainly call for significant changes in how you define your business. In many cases it will mean starting a new and different business that could sooner or later eclipse your biggest revenue maker