I was always the one who entered the room prepared.  Before attending a lunch or coffee meeting to network, I would scour my fellow guest’s LinkedIn profile.  But, to be a successful consultant requires the ability to walk into a situation (typically in front of a client) without exactly knowing what to expect.

This skill, although critical to the success of a consultant, is becoming ever more pronounced for successful leaders – even within the comfortable walls of a single organization.

As the knowledge revolution has fully enveloped the modern economy, things change at an ever more rapid pace.  Mobile computing is overshadowing desktop computing, experts are hired from across the globe, and it is difficult to not have heard of “in the cloud” – as if the weather were not unpredictable enough!

Leading in today’s economy is about adjusting and flexing as different challenges are presented.  To find comfort in this ambiguity is less about being prepared than it is about assumed confidence.

Leading by Assumed Confidence

Confidence is typically built around performing a task previously and then performing the task again – even if applied somewhat differently.  For example, I have designed and orchestrated many a complex software application and feel confident I can successfully design and build another – even if within an unfamiliar industry or business.

Assumed confidence takes this a step further.  It is a sense of knowing you have previously been capable of learning and adapting to unfamiliar situations and found a modicum of success – beginner’s luck is always beneficial.  As these scenarios present themselves again and again, you start to build a sense about your ability to adapt and find success in things completely foreign.  For example, I have successfully solved a complex technical problem for one company, and if I listen and use my intelligence I feel confident I can solve a different type of business problem for a different company.

In this last bit, the confidence is not based on a previous performance in executing the same or similar tasks.  It is about building a general state of confidence and the ability to apply it to a completely unrelated effort.  You assume you can rely on the skills and characteristics having served you well in the past, but can apply it to a challenge facing you in the future… the ability to walk into an unfamiliar room and either lead or contribute at a high level.

Introduce the Ambiguity

Leading in the world of technology-enabled companies is not about having the answers.  And, becoming arrogant based on past success is not a demonstration of confidence.  The future of leadership is feeling confident when faced with ambiguity – to lead and collaborate with a team arriving at a direction not previously known – forging a new path.

There is no longer an option of mitigating ambiguity.  Leadership simply needs to learn leadership skills when faced with the unknown and unpredictable.