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Leading through ambiguity by aiming for clarity

One of the challenges that all leaders face today is how to lead others through ambiguity and into an unclear future. We cannot control the environment or prevent it from being more unclear. But there are some things we can do within our own sphere of influence to create more clarity for ourselves and the people we lead. Here are four suggestions:

1. Be clearer about yourself.

2. Be clearer about your business dream.

3. Be clearer about your communication.

4. Be clearer about the future.

Be clearer about yourself: How? You need to be more aware of yourself, your values and your motivation. It's about being authentic -- you are who you really are. You don't need to wear a mask to work.

Why is it critical to be authentic now? There was a time in the business world when you could pretend or wear a mask at work; people might not have been able to detect your genuine self. But when things get more ambiguous and you're not sure what to do, you tend to lose your mask. In some cases, you might even become more aggressive than usual in order to protect your ego. Hence, to be clearer about yourself, here are three steps:

1. Improve your self-awareness by identifying strengths and weaknesses through psychometric tests, such as Strengthsfinder, MBTI, DISC or the Hogan Personality Inventory. Try to do more than one test to get more angles.

2. Identify your personal values. This will help you understand your inner driving force better. There are two approaches you can use:

Learn from four key role models in your life: in your family, from school or university, from work experience, and from a public figure. Ask yourself what characteristics you could adopt from each role model. These characteristics influence your personal values.

Identify personal values by self-reflection. What are your guiding principles? What do you stand for? Why? What are you passionate about? Why? What do you want for your life? Why?

3. Identify your motivation: What do you want to be remembered for? What end do you have in mind? What will be your legacy?

Once you get clearer about your self-awareness, values and motivation, you can go to the next step.

Be clearer about your business dream: This is about the dream of your company or department in terms of vision, mission, strategy and core values.

Vision: Where do you see your company or team three years from now?

If the Bangkok Post business editor came to interview you at that time, what success story would you be able to tell?

If your company is a house, what will it look like by that time?

Mission: To achieve the vision, what are key missions your team needs to carry out?

Strategy: What business strategy must be applied to achieve the vision and missions?

Core values: What values, beliefs and principles does your team need achieve the above?

Once you are clearer about yourself and the dream, you come to the part where the rubber meets the road.

Be clearer about your communication: What do you want to communicate? Why?

Who are the stakeholders?

What are the characteristics of each group?

How do you communicate effectively to each group?

How do you measure success?

Finally …

Be clear about the future: In the book Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way, author Bruce Rosenstein wrote: "It is true that the future is unknown and essentially unpredictable, but there is a lot about the future that it partially known."

For example, your calendar tells you when you have commitments, both personal and professional. There is also a great variety of news, public and demographic data that can help you get a clearer picture of current conditions and possible future trends.

Other interesting sources of information are awards, honours and prizes. People and organisations that have been honoured for innovations, improving the world, creating useful knowledge or products can be terrific sources for ideas on how to create your own future. Reading about these awards, and the accomplishments of the winners, can provide considerable inspiration and ideas to further your own career.

In conclusion: Successful leaders for the future need to lead through ambiguity by getting clearer about themselves, their dreams, communication and the future. Once you complete this process, you will still be exposed to external ambiguity but it will be less stressful because you have more clarity with regard to the things that you can influence.

You will make mistakes along the way, but you will recover and learn to adapt faster because you don't worry so much about your inner self. And most importantly, the people you lead will be more confident about following you.

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: Previous articles are archived at