Leader’s Choice – Wait or be be pushed?

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Simon Bird

woolly mammoth

Waiting for certainty…..may bring you nothing…….

The quest for certainty, clarity and evidence is human nature.  It’s probably rooted in something primeval….a survival instinct, a way of making sure you only get involved with a woolly mammoth if you know you can outrun it…or at least make a sharp right before it tramples you.

But what if that certainty or clarity isn’t forthcoming?   We are left with choices.  We can wait – and wait in vain sometimes.   Or we can reassess, and balance the risk of not doing anything with the risk of any action.   In recent weeks, I’ve found myself involved in exchanges which would suggest that change is happening so quickly in areas of my life that waiting for clarity is no longer an option.   The post-Brexit environment must be one of the most unstable and unpredictable climates in the last couple of decades.   Organisations and people are faced with choices.  Do we wait?   Or do we act?

Sustainability & Transformation Plan footprints in the NHS will determine how care is delivered in this country….but there’s little clarity about governance, sponsorship – or what is even ‘allowed’.    Some areas are seeing this as an opportunity – and developing options, some of which will be controversial.  Others await clarity.  What’s the right thing to do?

With that in mind, perhaps some of the findings from our original research around systems leadership do not come as a surprise. Our systems leadership framework is based on original research with those individuals who were able to thrive and be successful in more complex and ambiguous systems, as opposed to those who did an average job.   And there’s a link here – we noticed in particular that those who could thrive and operate here were more optimistic, pragmatic and likely to challenge the status quo.

And with this comes some tension.  There are statutory requirements to consider, there is the need to keep an overactive ego in check and above all, there is a need to do the right thing.  But perhaps in these times of flux, our tolerance for risk, for doing things differently and for working with ambiguity, needs to be much greater and deeper, than in previous times of certainty.

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