We like it clear, explicit and straightforward.

But life is never clear, explicit and straightforward. In today’s knowledge economy, we’re hired to solve problems that are vague, ambiguous and complicated.

For most of us, our education system has prepped us for clear, explicit and straightforward. A multiple choice question implies that the answer is in the question, the case studies we discuss have pre-determined answers and the assignments we work on have pre-defined outcomes.

It’s not surprising then that most of us struggle at the workplace.

What do you do when there’s no one to tell you how to solve a problem? 

You blame your boss because you expect a good boss to set clear goals, give clear instructions, and assess you based on clear criteria.

What do you when you are the boss?

You strive to set clear goals, give clear instructions, and assess others based on clear criteria.

This is the norm and it has to change. We need to embrace ambiguity and the easiest place to start is with leadership.

It’s natural to want to be the leader they like, i.e. to spoon feed your team with the answer to the problem.

It takes courage to be the leader they need i.e. to empower your team to solve the problem themselves.

Problem solving is often hard. At first they’ll struggle with the ambiguity of the problem. So they’ll blame you. With time they’ll make progress. As they progress, they’ll find pride in owning the solution. Yet, they won’t thank you. This is the essence of great leadership.

Great leaders create leaders.

(And rarely get thanked for it)