Why Great Leaders Embrace Uncertainty

Uncertainty is a permanent part of our lives. Rarely will you come to a moment and say, I am certain.

We are consistently called to make decisions, and we are constantly making these decisions with limited intelligence. It’s important that we learn to embrace the tension of not knowing everything.

Great leaders lead without knowing it all.

Great leaders do not eliminate uncertainty, but learn to navigate through it.

Great leaders lead despite the shadows of uncertainty.

Great leaders recognize that clarity of vision is more important than certainty of the outcome.

Every day, we are expected to make decisions regarding our business, our relationships, our marketing, our ideas, and our strategies. We make these decisions even though we don’t always have the answers.

If we knew everything that was going to happen, we wouldn’t need to experience it. There would be nothing to attain, achieve or acquire.

Lead From Within: The only thing we can be certain about is where we have been and what we have done in the past.  Where we are going is always new, and often uncertain.



N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Shawn Murphy

    27. Mar, 2011

    The amount of uncertainty right now can lead us to make snap decisions when a slow play is called for, can lead us to make a slow play when forging forward is needed.

    One thing is certain, pausing to assess how to respond to the uncertainty is key. So much of what you advocate and teach about leading from within is crucial to respond to uncertainty.

    Great post.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Lolly Daskal

    27. Mar, 2011

    Thank you Shawn for your comment.

    Uncertainty is not your enemy. Uncertainty gives you space – as you said, Shawn, to pause- so you can press on in spite of all the unknowns.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Robyn McMaster

    27. Mar, 2011

    Lolly, sometimes when we embrace uncertainty we make the wrong decision. But we learn more from our failures than our successes. It seems no matter the outcome we will learn to make good choices overtime. It’s a process.

    I like what you just said about uncertainty giving you some space, even though there are unknowns.

    Reply to this comment
    • Lolly Daskal

      27. Mar, 2011

      You are so right! We do learn from our failures. It’s an important message to remember.
      So great that you have stopped by.
      Loved your comment.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Helen Antholis

    28. Mar, 2011

    Dear Lolly,

    There is nothing certain but the unforeseen.

    Future leaders need to ask: Do I want to create change? Is my fear of being right greater than my fear of being wrong? Am I strong enough in my convictions to stay the course despite what critics and naysayers say?

    As you say, navigate through uncertainty…by being certain of you are, within.

    Reply to this comment
    • Lolly Daskal

      28. Mar, 2011

      I so agree Helen! I think what you are talking about having COURAGE. You need to have the courage to remain certain in your uncertainty and
      contrary to what we might think- uncertainty actually increases with increased leadership responsibility. The more responsibility you assume as a leader
      the more uncertainty you will be expected to manage. The cost of success as a leader is greater uncertainty not less. Knowing who you are – leading from within is key to being a great leader.
      Thanks for your insightful comment.

      Reply to this comment
  5. rlohariwala

    28. Mar, 2011

    If there was no uncertainty, there would be no challange, no thrill. because of uncertainty we either earn and succeed or we learn with failure to try differantly. That’s life.

    Reply to this comment
    • Lolly Daskal

      28. Mar, 2011

      Yes Riohariwal This is life.
      Thanks for your comment.

      Reply to this comment
  6. Simran

    29. Mar, 2011

    Heyy Lolly!
    Loved your post! Yes very true about uncertainty. The only thing certain is Death 🙂 the rest is unknown and without having Life and the challenges that foresee us every single day we wouldnt gain any experience we wouldnt have that feeling of joy when we succeed or experience the feeling when we fail.. Its all crucial for our emotional growth in order to make us better people and to realise that the power within is what will make us grow spiritually and also make us more wise and mature but again that is our choice to make whether we want it or not 🙂 🙂 thank you for sharing! 🙂
    Have a fabulous day! 🙂

    Reply to this comment
  7. Chris Edmonds

    29. Mar, 2011

    Great ideas well expressed, Lolly. I’m not one that enjoys uncertainty. I don’t even like surprises in my FOOD (I’m not happy with walnuts in brownies).
    You and the #LeadFromWithin community have helped me grow more comfortable with knowing what I can and always moving forward.
    If I embrace the new, I can learn and grow!

    Reply to this comment
  8. Dale Hansen

    01. Apr, 2011

    I hear your words loud and clear. A leader needs to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and do it afraid. One can learn volumes in the process, and mistakes will happen, but lessons will be learned.

    Doing studies and creating focus groups, while you form a sub-committee to study the focus groups just drives me crazy. I will take a snap decision all day long if it stays ahead of the competition and creates movement, improvement, include-ment (I made that last word up on the fly and I am comfortable with that) 🙂

    Reply to this comment
  9. David Pancost

    03. May, 2011

    Another great post, Lolly. I love this line:

    “Great leaders recognize that clarity of vision is more important than certainty of the outcome.”

    This is so true. Winston Churchill, one of my heros, lived in extremely uncertain times. Yet he never waivered from his vision of a free and victorious England. As a result, he went down as one of the great men of history.

    Learning to develop a crystal clear vision and living from that space is the best way to live a life of deep meaning and emotional peace.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Once again they have inspired me to rise to new heights.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Michael Salogga

    11. May, 2011

    Being unemployed right now, I can certainly vouch for uncertainty in my near future, my “undiscovered country”. Thank you for the inspiration to keep up the “good fight”, recalling the times in the past when holding the vision guided some of my best decisions as a manager. And looking inspiring me to do some volunteer work in the community so that I can give back, having been so blessed in the past.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Edward Colozzi

    11. May, 2011

    Wonderful post Lolly.
    Isn’t it amazing how God takes our entire life history, wraps His love around it ever so gently, and then, with an even more gentle squeeze, He allows a grace-filled wisdom to emerge from our human expereinces that turn the “cuts” and pain of our past into very real facets that shine forth as the brilliant diamonds of His wisdom, deep-seeded wisdom that you, Lolly, are now able to offer others.

    I wanted to end with one of my quotes I shared in your tweetchat…
    “Uncertainty is the invitation to new learning; welcome and embrace her in humility and anticipation.”

    Continue Lolly to do your calling so the gifts bestowed upon you flow into the lives of many others. EdC

    Reply to this comment
  12. Lynn Fishman RN

    12. May, 2011


    I love this post Lolly. I particularly like the line, “Great leaders recognize that clarity of vision is more important than certainty of the outcome.” What a great mantra!

    I agree with you- the only way to deal with uncertainty is to embrace it. How else will we be able to respond to stress in a meaningful way – one that embraces self-regulation instead of the classic flight or fight response?

    It is a paradox that we all crave control and certainty when we live in an uncertain world. That is the reality that every person- leader or not must deal with. Thank you for bringing up such an important and universal topic.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Toby Lindsay

    15. May, 2011

    Completely agree Lolly, we spend so much human effort on the myth of predictability and the reality is we can never know the result of our actions and how the vast complexities of all our interactions will turn out.
    We can though listen, focus and act with the very best of intent and also relax and understand that we do not have to always get it right.
    The idea that we can lead, consult or manage on a diagnose, plan, act in a linear cause effect way is not going to help us and to acknowledge that and let go is a step on the path to freedom.
    🙂 x

    Reply to this comment
  14. Ann Webb Camp

    17. May, 2011

    Thank you Lolly, what an excellent view of reality; it is amazing how often leaders pressure themselves to know and anticipate everything before making a move in any direction. Often times being so set on an outcome causes us to miss the importance of the original vision…and we come up short.

    Reply to this comment
  15. Steven Belivea

    18. May, 2011

    Nice work… always a challenge, this embracing is. Heck of a topic, Lolly… 🙂

    Uncertainty… is just that. Leaders, losers, and lollygaggers alike all understand it equally, don’t they?

    Certainly, we all embrace uncertainty when we were born. And isn’t that a certain uncertainty at a high point?

    Certainly, this uncertainty does not even care… lol

    It appears to fit the idea that – “Nothing is absolute, and that itself is a total absolute.” – paradox – welcome to pandora.

    Reply to this comment

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