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Great leaders light the path into the unknown

Other than death and taxes, the only certainty we have is uncertainty. That’s why we need to be great and fearless leaders embracing the unknown, writes Fi Bendall.

You could be hit by a bus tomorrow. That’s a grim outlook, but there’s an element of truth in it. Substitute bus for any number of other things, events, scenarios and you’re getting some way to understanding one of the fundamental laws of life: we are surrounded by uncertainty.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said something along these lines: You can’t step into the same river twice. That’s because change is a constant. You are constantly changing – and so is the river.

The certainty of uncertainty is probably even more evident today than it has ever been. The tech age we are living through feels like a sci-fi movie with more twists and turns than we can keep up with. We just saw a contingent of tech leaders petition the UN to ban killer robots.

You can’t make this stuff up. You don’t have to. It’s happening.

But there can be a great sense of liberation in embracing uncertainty, in accepting that transformation is the norm, and disruption is to be expected. That’s when you start to back yourself. That’s when you empower yourself to see with fresh eyes. That’s when you say to yourself, ‘I’ve got this.’

You can’t step into the same river twice. That’s because change is a constant. You are constantly changing – and so is the river.

Leaders can’t be afraid of exploring the unknown. People don’t need leaders who can tell them what they already know and guide them to places they are already familiar with. People follow leaders who dive deep into the unknown. People want leaders who can show them how to conquer their fears.

I had a discussion with a friend the other day about a new product she was taking to market. She had been told that her tag line was going to turn some people off and she should change it to something less daring; to play it safe. I looked at the tag line and said to her, ‘Why are you worried about turning people off? They’re not the people you want to sell to anyway. You should be thinking about whether you’re turning people on.’

Don’t give in to the fears of those who are content to live within limits. The time for playing it safe is gone. There’s no growth in being certain about your known knowns. Great leaders know the river keeps flowing; and they know that they, themselves, are not the same as they were yesterday. Embrace life for all its crazy, messed-up uncertainty. Show people how to do it.

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