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  • Writer's pictureUlrika Gustafson PCC LL.M

Navigating the Unknown: A Leadership Guide to Leading Through Ambiguity


In the dynamic landscape of today's business world, ambiguity has become a constant companion for leaders. As an Executive Coach and former C-suite leader, I've witnessed the transformative power of effective leadership in the face of uncertainty. In this blog post, I'll share insights and strategies to help leaders not only survive but thrive when leading through ambiguity.

1. Embrace the Unknown


Leading through ambiguity starts with acknowledging the unknown. Embrace ambiguity as an inherent part of leadership, recognizing that clarity may not always be immediate. This mindset shift lays the foundation for resilient leadership.


2. Communicate Openly and Transparently


Clear communication becomes paramount in uncertain times. Keep your team informed about the current situation, potential challenges, and the organization's direction. Transparency builds trust and helps align everyone toward common goals.


3. Foster an Adaptive Culture


Cultivate a culture that thrives on adaptability. Encourage innovation, flexibility, and a willingness to pivot when necessary. In an ever-changing environment, adaptability becomes a competitive advantage.


4. Prioritize Connection and Collaboration


In times of ambiguity, strong interpersonal connections are invaluable. Foster a collaborative environment where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas and concerns. Collective intelligence often leads to innovative solutions.


5. Clarify Priorities and Values


Clearly define organizational priorities and values. When faced with ambiguity, these become guiding principles. They provide a stable foundation upon which decisions can be made, ensuring alignment with the organization's mission.


6. Empower Decision-Making at All Levels


Distribute decision-making authority throughout the organization. Empower individuals at all levels to make informed decisions within their areas of expertise. This not only speeds up the decision-making process but also encourages a sense of ownership.


7. Invest in Leadership Development


Equip your leadership team with the skills needed to navigate ambiguity. Training in adaptive leadership, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence enhances their ability to lead effectively in uncertain times.


8. Balance Confidence with Humility


While projecting confidence is crucial, leaders should also embrace humility. Acknowledge the limitations of certainty, and be open to learning from the ever-changing landscape. This balance fosters trust and authenticity.


9. Encourage Continuous Learning


Ambiguity often presents learning opportunities. Encourage a culture of continuous learning, where failures are viewed as stepping stones to success. This mindset shift promotes resilience and growth.


10. Celebrate Small Wins


In the midst of uncertainty, celebrating small wins becomes even more important. Recognize and appreciate the achievements, no matter how incremental. It boosts morale and reinforces the notion that progress is being made.


Leading through ambiguity is not just a skill; it's an art that requires continuous refinement and the impact of leaders who embrace uncertainty with courage and clarity can not be overstated. By fostering a culture of adaptability, prioritizing transparent communication, and investing in both personal and team development, leaders can not only weather the storm of ambiguity but emerge stronger on the other side. Together, let's navigate the unknown and lead our teams to success.



Ulrika Gustafson LL.M PCC is a partner of HAMILTON THERRELL Executive Advisors, an international advisory group of experts in leadership and organizational transformation. She advises CEOs and coaches senior executives on succeeding in demanding environments.

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