The necessity for tolerance of ambiguity
Today’s professionals need to succeed in technology-rich environments . Information age organizations are characterized by rapid change and uncertainty . Progressing globalization poses challenges through ambiguities that are caused by ever novel, complex, and changing socio-economical, environmental, technological, and workforce factors . The ability to tolerate ambiguity, therefore, is increasingly vital for successful leaders and employees alike .
“The tolerance for ambiguity (or intolerance for ambiguity) construct relates to a person’s disposition or tendency in addressing uncertain situations” [4, p.1]. The concept is also described in organizational behavior as “a coping mechanism for dealing with organizational change” .
Tolerance for ambiguity as a performance driver
Tolerance for ambiguity was found to support organizational performance drivers, such as :
- Receptive for cross-cultural work and collaboration
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Tolerance for failure
- Taking risks
- Creativity and innovation
- Monitoring self
- Entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial performance, and
- Managerial performance
- A firm’s financial and market performance
Importance for (global) leadership
“Dealing with ambiguity is seldom taught, but higher-performing leaders tend to understand that uncertainty can be the gateway to opportunity” (6, p. 30).
Indeed, tolerance (or intolerance) for ambiguity influences one’s behavior and consequently leadership and decision-making style . Studies have found that expatriates high on tolerance for ambiguity adjust and perform better in global work workplaces and cross-cultural environments .
Practicing tolerance for ambiguity
Leadership learning and development should adapt to the rapidly evolving business world, for example, by providing innovative learning strategies such as simulations . Potential for improvement and learning progress related to tolerance for ambiguity can be measured with according psychometric assessments and accordingly monitored as a key leadership ability .
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