Embrace ambiguity…

Sfumato, an Italian word, when translated to English means “soft, vague, or blurred.” Sfumato is derived from “Fumo” (smoke,fume). According to Leonardo da Vinci, sfumato is a crucial ingredient to genius. He used this technique in his most famous painting, Mona Lisa, but to him sfumato was more than a blurring of the lines on his creative canvases. Sfumato was something he embraced in work and life. You see, Leonardo knew that ambiguity was ever present. You know this as well. Very rarely, in life, are the moments of truth, crucial conversations, or critical decisions we face, seen with 20/20 clarity. At best, we see the big picture somewhat clearly but the details, many times, are but a blur. Leaders, understand this truth.

Leaders embrace ambiguity. Normal humans hesitate. Leaders choose action. Normal humans let anxiety stop them in their tracks. Sfumato is not going away tomorrow. Genius comes when we practice curiosity, test our theories, engage all our senses, embrace ambiguity, and make decisions while normal teams hesitate. Embrace sfumato, leader, and make more decisions. The risk involved in not deciding is just as real as the risk involved in deciding. Since we can’t calculate the cost of inaction or indecision as clearly as the cost of shooting on the mat, a triple backflip on the beam, driving the lane with our weak hand, having the hard convo with our high performer, or setting performance standards sure to send shudders through the system, we decide to wait, delay, and play defensive. Not good.

Embrace sfumato, leader. Life is risk. Lean in. It’s so much more fun when you take some calculated risk and go for it. You know this. Now let’s do this. Of course we’re not going all in, we’re just gonna make some small bets and take it from there. I’m gonna make another small bet in team practice tomorrow. My last one didn’t go so well. No biggee. I’ve got a pile of chips (in my mind) behind me. Good…

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