President’s Perspective: Confidence vs. Certainty

Jul 28, 2020

These day’s it’s impossible to watch the news or scroll through social media without seeing so many people who are certain of their position on a topic. I am specifically referring to the different ways in which families, cities, states and society “should” be responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with it typically comes an intolerance for those who see it differently. When certainty of any flavor is thrown in my face with indignance, I find it exhausting.

With today’s volatile conditions and ever-changing landscape of information, I find it hard to be certain about almost anything. On the other hand, as a leader, I know that I need to assess and proceed in a direction with confidence. Paralysis is not a good option. Taking all the information and viewpoints into consideration, and confidently choosing a direction to head, is the mode that I prefer and the one that I believe is best for leading. While I’m confident to act, I am always receptive to new information and feedback that can compel a course correction. Still moving, still confident, always humble and never certain.

If I was certain, I wouldn’t budge. If I was certain, I would feel as if I needed to defend my initial thinking rather than change direction based on new inputs. Certainty is exhausting. Leading with confidence is filled with many levels of emotion and energy that require constant assessment and review. It is not easy or effortless, but it is a better approach to leadership in times of great uncertainty like we’re facing in 2020. Certainty is just not sustainable.

Throughout the last 60 days I have greatly curbed my consumption of news and social media that feature reckless certainty. Instead I’ve compared notes with other leaders who are assessing and acting with confidence, not certainty. Be confident, be well, and be humble. We need you now and we’ll need you on the other side of this too.

Mike Espeset