Working through ambiguity - a phenomenographic study

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Atamanchuk, Dawna
Leaders are dealing with unprecedented volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). This study explores how leaders from multinational firms navigated ambiguity. A phenomenographic approach was used to understand nine respondents’ thinking and feelings regarding ambiguity and their ability to move beyond the situation. This occurred through semi-structured interviews, flashcards, and shared stories. When individuals find themselves in ambiguous situations, they tend to sit in them for a while, until something triggers new behaviours or actions. An outcome space presents varied ways in which individuals can work through ambiguity. It also shows that when they found alignment with their values, they experienced movement, resulting in an awakened life. Findings may be of value to leaders for their own work and for their mentoring of employees. Executive coaches could use findings to formulate new coaching questions. Further research is encouraged to fully understand this phenomenon from cross-cultural and Indigenous perspectives. Keywords: ambiguity, phenomenography, coaching, story-telling, uncertainty, leaders
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