In a podcast with Brené Brown, President Obama spoke of the challenges leaders face in decision-making. He commented that the higher you are in the organizational structure, the more frequently you are confronted with issues that don’t have an easy answer. “If there was a perfect answer,” he said, “someone else would have already solved it.” The goal then becomes to make better decisions and to eliminate bad answers.

One way to accomplish this is through what Obama called the “ability to hold the discomfort of paradox.” He extoled the virtues of being able to deal with ambiguity and to “see paradoxes, but not be paralyzed by them.” Many perspectives may be true and even valid, but the leader must still make a decision even though it will not solve all the issues or make everyone happy.

Consider all the time that you have spent wrestling with alternatives in your mind, going back and forth as you try to find an ideal solution to a problem that vexes you. Obama’s point is that a solution may not even exist that meets all your criteria. The best you can hope for is to identify the pain points and benefits – and then to act in spite of that duality.

Source: President Barak Obama with Brené Brown on the Dare to Lead Podcast (Spotify) December 7, 2020

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