The fourth postulate of Renaissance leadership: SFUMATO – the desire to accept ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty

More than ever, leaders today need virtue to lead in a world that is complex, unpredictable and insecure. There is even an abbreviation for it: VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity). Until a few months ago, the world as it looks today, was unthinkable to us. Only a month ago, it seemed that the world had stopped. Leaders who managed to lead their people through difficult moments in a fast and safe way, through insecurity and even fear, are those who were able to act in an environment of unknown and insufficiently defined states and outcomes.

You may not have known the interesting fact that a large number of top managers of the Fotrune 100 companies stated that the biggest mistakes of their business were the decision to obey advisors, lawyers, jurists, experts instead of their intuition.

So, if we were to translate Leonardo’s principle of Sfumato into the language of today’s leaders, we could freely call it Intuition. The good news is that it is a quality that can be developed. Not as easy as assertive communication or prioritization, but it can! The beginning is to start believing that intuition is your ally and that you want to develop it.

To embark on the journey of developing this important virtue, the key is to spend some time in solitude and relaxation. In the world of multitasking, too short and excessive deadlines, many leaders believe that time is a luxury for itself. When I ask them when they are resting or when they take a break, the most common answer is that they do it during lunch, together with colleagues, reading the news or playing sports they like. But for the development of Intuition, a different me-time is needed. The time when you are alone with your thoughts. Even better, if you succeed and drive away your thoughts for a few minutes. And then, let them slowly start coming back. In an order that you (consciously) do not influence. Completely relaxed in bed, in the shower, on a walk… If you think about it, you probably came up with the best ideas in such relaxed situations, and not in the office, at work. Take some time at least once, maybe even twice a week, to go for a walk alone, with your thoughts, or at least sit alone.

When we talk about the Sfumato principle, it is important to note that it does not only apply to the leader and his intuition. This principle is essential in leading the team and the process. If we were to try to translate the principle into an instruction, it might sound like, “Believe in your people, believe in yourself, believe in the process.”

In large projects, the situation at first often seems too complex, too serious and difficult to achieve. If you believe that your people, and you with them, will know how to approach solving a complex and unknown task, you will lead them with much more energy and confidence. And your faith is often a key factor in motivating and dedicating your people.

Planning time for the retrospective, evaluation of what has been done and possible changes during the implementation are key in today’s way of doing business. The parameters which you used to plan the entire course of action are changing, not only because the situation will be clearer to you in each subsequent phase, but also because the environment is changing. What you were counting on at the beginning, may not necessarily be true during or at the end of the project.

In the times in which we work, at the beginning of the 21st century, information threatens to suffocate us with its scope and diversity. The time you devote to studying, understanding, perceiving, evaluating often becomes your expense, not your investment. The wisdom is to decide: how much planning is good enough? Sometimes it is necessary to plan each step before it starts to be realized. But, fortunately, this is not always the case. Sometimes “good enough” is really enough. Every minute you devote to further understanding and study begins to be your expense. Calculated risk is something that is most often heard from successful leaders as their basic strength and strategy. And what is that other than Sfumato?

Humans, as an animal species, tend to be afraid of change. Because, they are also uncertain, insufficiently defined and threaten to upset the balance in which we were before the change occurred. In today’s world, one of the few constants is change. Darwin himself said that those species and individuals , who adapted the best to the new living conditions – survived. Be a leader who will ensure the survival of yourself, your team and business, by easily accepting uncertainty and indefiniteness, and with faith in your intuition and lead your people towards achieving goals.

If you want to exercise, here are some ideas:

– Remember the three most significant changes you have noticed in your life. Remember the three things that remained unchanged. From what did you grow and dissipate?

– Remember when you were most proud in your life. Remember when you felt most humble. Invoke feelings of deep pride and deep humility. How are they different? Are there any unexpected similarities?

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