The growth of the knowledge economy has resulted in fundamental changes in the nature of business. As we moved from a manufacturing economy we have moved away from its foundation of rationality, order, and predictability towards an economy that values change, innovation and creativity.

This has been accompanied by marked increase in conditions of ambiguity. When is an idea right or wrong? When is it  complete? How much knowledge on a subject is enough?

The nature of leadership has changed with the changing economy as one of the prime requirements for leaders today is to be able to resolve ambiguity.

David Wilkinson, a lecturer at a number of UK universities has identified four different leadership styles for dealing with ambiguity and complexity.

  1. Technical Leadership. These leaders usually deal with ambiguity by denial or creating their own certainty. They are also more dictatorial and are very risk averse by nature.
  2. Cooperative Leadership. The aim of these leaders is to disambiguate uncertainty and to build teams around them to mitigate risk.
  3. Collaborative Leadership. Collaborative leaders have a tendency towards consensual methods of leadership. They prefer to work towards aligning team members values and getting agreement. Their approach to ambiguity is for the group to examine it.
  4. Generative Leadership. These leaders use ambiguity to find opportunity. They tend to be inveterate learners and innovators.