A Leadership Lesson From Voltaire


Voltaire. Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position.Dead philosophers most of us no longer study have some worthwhile things to teach us. Voltaire is certainly NOT a philosopher to whom I regularly (or even occasionally) turn. Voltaire was militantly against the Christian faith. So keep that in mind as you read any of his thoughts.

That does not mean we can't learn from Voltaire. "Even a blind squirrel stumbles across a nut once in a while." Even an atheistic philosopher can stumble across insights and worthwhile perspectives. Here is one that I think worth remembering as a leader.

"Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position.
But certainty is an absurd one."

Here are three reasons why I think Voltaire makes a good case for living with uncertainty:

(1)  You don't know the future. As the comic said, "The future is not what it use to be." No one knows the future. Even those who make a living at being Futurists, only make educated guesses after considering vast amounts of data.

(2)  Change Happens. Change is rapid, sweeping, constant and disruptive. That is one reason why we don't know the future. Change has changed. How we experience change has changed. 

(3)  You are much more limited than you realize. That is a tough pill to swallow. For many leaders believe they are "masters of the universe" and that with hard work, they are in control. That is an illusion.

These three reasons are why CERTAINTY is absurd. You simply cannot be certain about most things. You can have considered opinions that are reliable. You can have confidence. You can be full of vital optimism.

Deepen your faith and trust in the sovereign God.
But hold things loosely. 
Be ready to let go of what isn't working - quickly.
Be prepared to alter course.
Be proactive about the unexpected... so you aren't dismayed or dumbfounded.
Learn to be comfortable with the tension of uncertainty.
Maintain a CONSTANT learning mode. Never stop learning.
If you are really interested in being stretched, do some scenario planning.

These are leadership postures that are essential for those of us called to lead in the early quarter of the 21st century.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International
BrianRice@lcileaders.org

LCI -helping you lead in the midst of uncertainty