Living in the Gray

Awhile back I was making my way through Dare to Lead by Dr. Brene’ Brown, and stumbled upon this quote which left me intrigued.

“Leadership is the ability to thrive in the ambiguity of paradoxes and opposites”

– Dr. Brene’ Brown

I appreciate the use of the word Thrive.  First it reinforces the idea of a wide spectrum of performance when it comes to leadership.  Second is that if there are gradients of performance then that also means it is complex.  Each of those are affirming to the notion that leadership should be respected.  It doesn’t say live, survive, complete, etc.  It says that in order to prosper or flourish as a leader you must be able to operate with ambiguity.  So lets talk about that.Leadership ThriveI am drawn to the idea of Ambiguity being the same as inexactness.  And the gray is where we often attribute the idea of being open to more than one interpretation.  So much of what we do as leaders lies in the contrary.  I understand the discomfort with not always knowing when so much is at stake.  I get that it is hard and challenging, and you may not understand for a long time whether your choice was the best one.  That small undefined area, that sliver of mystery, is where the strongest leaders have the chance to emerge.  To thrive.

So often when we are thrust in to the role of being a leader the immediate goal is to appear proficient.  We want to be able to answer each question, address each concern, and keep everything moving forward.  A new leader can survive making decisions early on – many of them likely simple and black/white.  And maybe even the gray ones seem easy enough as most people being supervised will be polite and offer the benefit of the doubt.  However, some leaders linger in that space, they get comfortable.  However I don’t think you can thrive – prosper – flourish – if you don’t dig deeper in to that gray area.  It’s hard.  Yet the gray area is where risks are taken, lessons are learned, and better ideas emerge.  If you aren’t willing to lean in to the gray area then you may never realize your potential.

I don’t know, I haven’t figured this one out yet.  It’s been rolling around in my head for some time.  What do you make of this descriptor for leadership?  How do you wrestle with the unknown?

 

3 thoughts on “Living in the Gray

  1. That quote pushes my thinking on what it looks like to be deep into the gray area. I think this is when strong leaders are excellent listeners and have to switch into a mode of “I may not know everything that I think I know….” You got me thinking.

    Like

  2. That quote pushes my thinking on what it looks like to be deep into the gray area. I think this is when strong leaders are excellent listeners and have to switch into a mode of “I may not know everything that I think I know….” You got me thinking.

    Like

  3. Thank you for this post, Michael! I think many leaders can relate to the feeling of needing to have the answers, especially early in one’s career. The “gray” can be better navigated when there is experience – either on the job or from life, but we can always learn and grow and get better in that space. There are so many situations that are similar but are different sometimes just by nuances, which can cause us to be in the gray often. Thank you for stretching my thinking today!
    Best,
    Jennifer

    Liked by 1 person

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