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Home » Blog » Understanding The Black Swans Of Leadership

Who Are The Black Swans?

We underestimated how uncertain the future is. The global black swan phenomenon has the potential to change what we know about everyday life and business.

After the publication of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan: The Effect of the Extremely Unlikely, the word “Black Swan” has become synonymous with unpredictable events (2007). The concept was first proposed by philosopher David Hume to describe the unpredictable, an unlikely but not impossible disaster that no one ever seems to prepare for, the things one doesn’t know or doesn’t know that one doesn’t know. To build a context for his enunciation, Taleb combines the concept from knowledge theory that only impossible occurrences can be highly informative with Karl Popper’s principle of falsifiability to improve on Hume’s old problem of inference.

One vexing aspect of the Black Swan problem is that rare occurrence probabilities are impossible to calculate. 

Adaptability to strange, weird, or unexpected occurrences is the essence of successful leadership, regardless of industry or organisational level. This is where the black swans of leadership shine.

But how does “Black Swan” fit in Leadership?

Emotional leaders are in high demand right now. Emotional leaders are humble. They have empathy. They are characterised by their communication abilities. They are in touch with their human side, and a greater ability to be present and engaged with others. They pay more attention to what they hear than what they say. They are appreciative and relaxing. They really care, as shown by their behaviour. They have no qualms about sharing their emotions. 

These are the black swans of leadership, with a small possibility but a high impact. 

They are the black swans, but not in the original theory of the logic of unpredictability, but in a logic of some kind of improbability. In a way, there aren’t many. Or they’re “hidden”. So we never know where we’ll find them or whether we’ll find them.

They are black swans because of their behaviour, beliefs, and true self. They have a profound effect on everything around them. Not just inside themselves, but also in those they lead and the organisations they lead. When we get to know black swans and have the ability to work with them, it’s easy to see why this style of leadership is so successful. It’s also simple to identify the characteristics that distinguish them that makes one wonder why there aren’t more of them.

Salient Features of a Black Swan Leader

The ability to keep opposing ideas in mind at the same time, such as being prepared and versatile, is needed to become a black swan leader. There are many other qualities you need to posses if you want to become the black swan leader-

  • Start with your personality: analyse your beliefs and understand what motivates your behaviour. 
  • Always keep in mind that abundance comes from inside, not from without.
  • Learn what makes you afraid, what scares you the most, and what feelings you feel.
  • Learn how to deal with blinding feelings and emotions that cause you to concentrate only on short-term goals.
  • Be honest with people about the fact that you don’t know what the future holds, but be hopeful about the possibilities.
  • Engage and include as many stakeholders as possible in the decision-making process.
  • Develop the confidence to behave as though you know what’s best for you while being versatile enough to change direction when new insight surfaces.
  • Recognize that anything you say and do as a leader has value for your followers; there is no such thing as a neutral transmission of knowledge or ‘doing nothing’. So, control the meaning you build through how you communicate and what you concentrate on.
  • Assist the team in making the most effective and useful sense of what’s going on. Make sure they understand that the projects they’re working on will help the business survive and improve its market value.
  • Find someone outside the company (a coach, for example) with whom you can have the “dark night of the soul” discussions. Be able to admit that you, too, have questions and fears about the future, your own future.
  • Prepare to listen to people’s worries about the future and provide whatever assistance you can.
  • Ensure that people continue to believe that they have options when it comes to what they can do.
  • Find opportunities for employees to be involved in coping with the company’s needs as well as their own problems.
  • Recognize that your company has a wealth of experience, intelligence, ability, and resources to help you face the challenges ahead.
  • Don’t think that because you’re the boss, you have to know everything.
  • Recognize and respect positive emotions such as joy, playfulness, and enthusiasm.
  • Create stories that are respectful of current realities and full of optimism, promise, and a bright future.

Why Are Black Swan Leaders Hard To Find?

Leadership styles have changed over time. Depending on the situation and the people involved, leadership styles must also be diverse, fluid, and manoeuvrable. Covid-19 was a Black Swan event that transformed the leadership landscape. The effect of Covid on leadership will be discussed at a later date.

Uncertainty brings new challenges and necessitates a new approach to leadership. There are many difficulties to leading in the conditions of adversity:

  • How do you build energy and morale in a depressing environment?
  • When the future is unpredictable, how do you keep a sense of progress?
  • How do you instil hope and confidence in a pessimistic environment?
  • How do you stay vigilant when responding to incidents that are outside your control?
  • How do you keep your best people when they are worried about the ship’s safety?
  • How can you stay on top of changes in the market world while concentrating on getting the most out of your company?
  • How can you be adaptable enough to respond to changing circumstances while still making plans and taking action?
  • How do you try to get the best out of people when they are preoccupied with their own future?

While some of these issues are related to business acumen, the majority of them revolve around learning how to lead and handle people. How to draw an optimistic vision of the organization’s and their own future? 

Many leaders are paralysed by their inability to provide straightforward, far-reaching answers about the future, and therefore attempt to avoid such debates. Alternatively, they deliver false hope and assurances, which those they aim to convince quickly recognise as such.

As a result of the various circumstances, various leaders arise.

Each event shows a different aspect of a leader. As a result, black swan leaders are unique.