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10 May 2016
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Leaders thrive on ambiguity

By Des Dearlove

This article is part of the Contemporary leadership series

“To be omnipotent but friendless is to reign”, wrote the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. He was right. Even if a leader’s power doesn’t quite stretch to omnipotence, being a leader can be a lonely place. It can also be a confusing one. Isolation and ambiguity are powerfully destructive forces among the ranks of leaders.

In 1985, Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge was published co-authored by the the late great leadership expert Warren Bennis with Burt Nanus, founder and director of the Center of Futures Research at the University of Southern California.  The book is based on research examining the lives of 90 of America's best-known leaders. The eclectic mix of names included McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, many other people from the worlds of business, sports, the arts, even an astronaut – Neil Armstrong.

Des Dearlove is co-founder of the Thinkers50. He is an Associate Fellow of Said Business School at Oxford University; an adjunct professor at IE Business School, where he taught the Strategic Communication Module on the International MBA; and the author of a bestselling study of the leadership style of Richard Branson. He has taught on the Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme, and the Swarovski Academy in Switzerland, and teaches media skills and crisis management at Cranfield School of Management.

He is a former columnist to The Times, contributing editor to the American magazine Strategy+Business, and co-editor of the bestselling Financial Times Handbook of Management. His books available in more than 20 languages include Gravy Training and Generation Entrepreneur (co-authored with Stuart Crainer).

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