So how do leaders feel about uncertainty and novelty? It’s an interesting question and I decided to test out some of my clients. I chose a simple questionnaire from Todd Kashdan, a Curiosity Researcher, that looked at two levels;
- Whether an individual seeks out novelty
- How an individual feels about embracing change when it is presented.
These are two very different dimensions. The data showed that the ten senior leaders surveyed showed a high response to seeking out novelty. However they scored 30% lower on their willingness and comfort to embrace change when it is presented. In interpreting this very simple assessment, it seemed that individuals are much more comfortable in seeking change, novelty and uncertainty then when they have no option. The common factor that seems to emerge is the perception of choice and control. In seeking out novelty and the unknown the leader perceives that he/she has a degree of choice and control, when change is thrust upon you, it is easy to perceive that you have no choice or control.
Although this research would not stand the rigours of any University worth it’s salt, it’s an interesting thought that I have used to help my coaching clients;
- Reflecting on what works – asking a client to think about times when they have sought out novelty and uncertainty, and helping them to think about how they did that, what personal strategies worked.
- Building a link – using these past memories to help them to think about how they can approach their uncertain situation differently
- Creating a perception of choice and control – identifying key aspects of their work or situation that they have a choice over or some degree of control and using a process of reframing
Incidentally I also asked three meditation teachers to complete the questionnaire to see how their approach would differ from the senior leaders. Indeed they scored 15% lower than the leaders in seeking out novelty and uncertainty, however their score for embracing change was almost the same to their score for novelty. The two domains under investigation did not show any significant difference, so they felt equally as comfortable with seeking novelty and uncertainty and embracing change.
More work to do obviously, but an interesting mini research project.
Clare is researching Ambiguity and Uncertainty and the Impact of Leadership Effectiveness for her Doctorate.