Embrace uncertainty to become an effective leader, says expert

Leaders need to be able to face the unknown and not be afraid of it, in order to produce better products and run more effective organisations, according to a leading psychologist.

Dr Randall White, author and expert on leadership, says that we need a more grown up view of our leaders and a more effective appreciation of what good leadership should contribute.

He will present his research into leadership and the qualities that make successful leaders in the 21st Century in a keynote address at the 9th Industrial and Organisational Psychology Conference (IOP) in Brisbane, June 23-26, hosted by the Australian Psychological Society College of Organisational Psychologists.

He said: “We need to accept that sometimes leaders have doubts and that they don’t always know what the outcome will be. That ability to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity, along with other traditional leadership qualities, actually makes someone an effective leader.”

According to Dr White, leaders who embrace ambiguity have an advantage because they are:

More able to define - and focus on - what is important, by linking information from a range of sources;

Can better identify opportunities, because they are curious and not afraid of the unknown;

Are able to get excited by ideas and communicate in a simple way, from the heart

Learn from risk and failure, because they are able to tolerate both;

Adapt in the face of difficulties, because they are flexible and they can convince others of the need to change.

He said: “Of course, such people aren’t perfect; they can be steamrollers.  Those qualities must be balanced by a high level of emotional intelligence; effective leaders understand their own emotions and those of others.”

According to Dr White, psychologists, as behavioural experts, can make a contribution to leadership knowledge by identifying and isolating the constructive and destructive behaviours associated with leadership.

“By studying how leaders behave, psychologists are able to identify the characteristics and qualities associated with success,” he said.

“Leadership is multi-faceted: leaders can command and control, they can inspire, but today they must be able to deal with uncertainty and embrace the unknown,” he said.

“And we can teach people how to do that.”


For more information, or to arrange an interview contact: Karen Coghlan or Judith Heywood on 0435 896 444.

Psychologist Dr Randall White, PhD, is a founding partner of Executive Development Group in Greensboro, NC. He works as an executive coach, a leadership development instructor and facilitator, and is an HEC Affiliate Professor, an adjunct professor at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, and teaches with Duke Corporate Education (Durham, London, Johannesburg, and Ahmedabad) and IE Business School (Madrid).
About the IOP Conference:  The ninth biennial Industrial and Organisational Psychology Conference will explore current workplace issues such as leadership, stigma, bullying, work/life balance and the impact of depression on business.