Inaction as leadership

I get it – people want change. But 95 percent of the time things don’t change.  And sometimes that is what prudential leadership requires.

Imagine a world in which a leader’s very words can make change happen. The leader speaks, people listen, and social processes turn those actions into new outcomes. 

In that world, how easy it to forecast the full range of new outcomes? And given how bad humans are at forecasting, how big are your confidence intervals around that forecast? What are the chances that the leader’s speech precipitates a black swan event?

If the leader sits at the middle of a complex social web, if the leader is that influential, most of the time the leader shouldn’t speak. Most of the time the leader shouldn’t intervene. 

An angry, flailing, irrational leader is a dangerous one -just because of the high probability of unintended consequences. Most reserved, calm, rational leadership is pretty boring.