“The devil you know is better than the one you don’t” – is a saying that’s been tracked as far back as the 1500’s AD. Individual people and societies have been dealing with uncertainty for millennia – and could not be more pertinent right now. An unprecedented pandemic has spread throughout the world stopping everyone and everything in its tracks.
The uncertainty in the world is at a scale none of us have seen and are unlikely to ever see again..
The news is constantly repeating the same headlines – yet people keep watching. The same questions remain unanswered.
People are burying their heads in the sand and acting like the pandemic is ‘out of sight out of mind’ – the most avoidant way of dealing with uncertainty..
Why do people act in such illogical ways when it comes to uncertainty?
Why do people choose to stay in jobs they don’t like – but prefer to complain about them.
Same goes for relationships.
Why do some people want to know so many of the details?
If someone needs to get their health in order, why do they avoid the doctor until something bad happens – burying their heads in the sand?
But then, some people are comfortable with not knowing everything and can stay calm whilst they negotiate new things they’ve never done before..
Geert Hofstede conducted a worldwide questionnaire of the company IBM between 1967-1973 and identified some ground-breaking tendencies – one of which was coined “Uncertainty Avoidance”.
“Uncertainty Avoidance” is a scale of how comfortable one is when dealing with something that is ambiguous or in how they manage a situation where there is no specific clear outcome. We all have varying levels of uncertainty avoidance, and people like to manage their uncertainty by watching the news, planning, reading reports, reiterating the same issues or dissecting the same problem. They can also seem very avoidant of issues they really need to address – like losing weight, getting a blood test or pretending to be happy in a relationship saying – “anyway, it should be ok – things will get better”.
Right now, the uncertainty of our future in terms of this pandemic’s impact on public health, our economy, global politics, globalisation of industrialisation and many more matters, could not be any higher.
People have been flooding to buy toilet paper – as that gives them certainty.
They buy enough food to last them a month – as that gives them certainty.
The discontent of staying at home as that’s a disruption to the certainty of their routine.
What I find interesting, is that despite any single person having a scrap of understanding about how to handle a global situation like this – people are saying “Just put us in lockdown so we can slow the spread” – really all they are asking for is certainty.
In uncertain times, people like a decisive leader. Decisions help put them out of mental pain. It eases the uncertainty because now – “the devil they know is better than the one they don’t”
“Just put me out of my misery so I can move forward.”
There are 12 agreed characteristics of a leader. Courage is one of them.
It takes courage to make a decision.
Which one would you be…
The leader that takes their troops through a battle. The leader that will manage their troops’ language, behaviours, attitudes and beliefs to help them stay strong to reach an outcome. The leader that will manage the uncertainty themselves, and still provide the troops with certainty to keep them calm, supported and focused. The leader that will back themselves and the decision they’ve made, even if it is an unpopular one. The leader that also knows WHEN to retreat, acknowledge the failure and change their decision.
The leader that is easily swayed by how their troops feel. The leader that will rush to take safer options. The leader that will raise the questions of uncertainty, like “what if..” forgetting how much that affects the way others think. The leader that will lead their troops to safety, but leave them hungry. The leader that will show courage to make a decision, but only because it guarantees their own safety. The leader that will make every excuse to bias their own decision and why it was their only choice.
Take care choosing your leader.
Leading others is a responsibility.
But leading yourself is your own.