𝗔𝗺𝗯𝗶𝘃𝗮𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝗟𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗿 - 𝗦𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗴𝘁𝗵 𝗼𝗿 𝗪𝗲𝗮𝗸𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀? 𝗕𝗼𝘁𝗵!
Updated: Oct 22, 2022
Founders are expected to be confident. Their strong beliefs in themselves and their visions is expected to also apply in their decisions.
For a founder to be ambivalent and have mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something, they may be perceived as not being confident.
However, there are times when ambivalence is powerful. For example, when a founder is ambivalent, they are open to ideas and options which could be incredibly valuable in scaling the business.
There are times when ambivalence can strengthen your leadership (e.g. brainstorming with the team) and times when it can weaken your role (e.g. talking with potential investors). By distinguishing the context, you can decide whether or not to apply ambivalence.
Ambivalence as a Strength
The indecision that often comes with ambivalence derives from the ability to see the benefits of multiple options. In other words, you can understand and empathize with the positions and perceptions of multiple stakeholders.
Because you are likely uncertain during this time, you are more willing to learn new information and to hear diverse advice. Being ambivalent can be valuable when undertaking the following tasks:
Strategy: view all options and approaches to mitigate risk and to optimize outcome
Innovation: explore new approaches and discover ways to improve the industry, to serve customers, or to increase efficiency
Negotiation: empathize with others' risks and rewards to optimize mutually beneficial outcomes
Organization: weigh all threats and opportunities to support the company’s growth and the team’s development
Knowing there is no clearly right answer, evaluating lots of choices, and recognizing all their risks can feel uncomfortable; however, if you can live with that discomfort, you often gain new insights into useful ideas and options with which to move forward.
When you demonstrate and encourage ambivalence, the team will likely match your approach. They will seek input from each other, be more collaborative, resolve problems faster, and perform better in the long run.
Ambivalence as a Weakness
Ambivalence is certainly not always positive or useful. In these particular situations, it will definitely be detrimental:
Emergencies: there are times when you must decide and act quickly or the problem will get exponentially worse
Implementations: when the plan is set, you must focus and work efficiently to limit resource drain and to reach the market effectively
Assaults: if the company comes under attack—by a disgruntled employee or dishonest competitor, for example—defend your values and team consistently and determinedly
Deadlines: when the timeline is paramount—proposal deadlines or payroll for instance—you must prioritize implementation
Another concern is optics. A leader perceived as unconfident may be considered weak and incapable. Knowing this perception, you need to respond deliberately when the audience is expecting decisiveness.
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses between embracing ambivalence and expressing confidence, you can consciously decide which to apply to any given situation.
Read the Room
Toggle between the two traits based on the situation and the audience. For instance, you will want to appear confident when pitching potential investors and to foster ambivalence when brainstorming with the team or negotiating a deal.
The more you recognize the benefits of both approaches and make a conscious choice between them, the more options you will have. If time allows, it usually makes sense to evaluate and discuss diverse possibilities for the situation at hand. At the same time, if you wait too long to act decisively, you can stagnate in the default position and ultimately lose options.
Miring too long in strategy and leaping too fast into motion both have risks, so set a deadline for weighing options and converting one selection to action.
Ambivalence is perceived as a detriment and feels uncomfortable, so it’s not surprising that we're tempted to avoid it. If you convert ambivalence into action in a reasonable time, then you can best identify and implement effective solutions. Know confidently when ambivalence is the best option.
Photo by Niklas Hamann who can be found here: https://bit.ly/3u8VhAd