Becoming Leaders worth Following: The Importance of Nuance


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If there is one thing that we lack in our society and as an extension within our organisations is nuance. Almost everyone is polarised on almost every issue. We forget that there is not many things in the world that can be binary in nature.

However, almost all the conversations we are having in public or private seems to be binary in nature. In terms of good and evil. In terms of left or right. In terms of oppressors or oppressed. In terms of aggressors or defenders. In terms of right or wrong. In terms of intellectual or emotional.

It is easy to think in binaries. It is also lazy to think and feel in binaries. There is always more going on. We need to look closer, think deeper and be curious to understand the nuances in any sphere or topic or debates.

In my experience, most things are on a spectrum. There is always a gray area between black and white. It is these nuances, when found, have the potential to spark insights and shift perspectives. It is these nuances that can lead to paradigm shifts in our thinking, understanding or feeling.

So, in order to become leaders worth following, we need to develop this habit of intentionally looking for the nuances in anything of importance.

It is crucial that we are able to get a much more nuanced understanding of the question we are trying to answer, data that we want to use to make a decision, people before we want to hire, promote or fire.

Nuanced understanding of the systems we are a part of enables us to get better at navigating them to our advantage. Nuanced understanding of the problem or the challenge or the constraints enable us to find a creative or breakthrough solutions.

You get the point.

So, the question then is how does one go about becoming nuanced:

1. Be intentional:

Becoming aware of the need to gain a nuanced understanding is already a big step up. The next thing to do is to become intentional about digging deep to gain a nuanced understanding of what we seek.

2. Be open:

The very nature of developing a more nuanced understanding is to be open to different perspectives on the same issue. Being open means leading with curiosity rather than judgement. Being open means being patient and staying with the issue or the people for longer than we usually do.

3. Be conscious:

All of us bring our biases with us to every situation and issue we think about. Being conscious about this and asking people specifically about the bias that we are bringing to the topic is a great start to understanding our own biases and develop nuances.

4. Be questioning:

One of the most important ways to develop nuanced understanding is by questioning what we already know and understand in what context it holds true and in what context it doesn’t. Simply by introducing the possibility of our understanding being wrong on certain contexts, enables us to be more nuanced.

5. Be patient:

Developing a nuanced understanding about anything requires time. So, we need to be able to be not only patient with ourselves but also be willing to adjust our opinions, decisions or solutions every time we develop a more nuanced understanding.

In conclusion:

In conclusion, all I would say is that the world needs more leaders who have a more nuanced understanding of the world and the issues we face. Businesses need leaders who have more nuanced understanding of the challenges facing our businesses.

We would do really well to work towards getting more nuanced if we want to become leaders worth following!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mukesh Gupta
I currently work for SAP as Customer advocate. In this capacity, I am responsible to ensure that the voice of the customer is being heard and play the bridge between customers and SAP. Prior to joining SAP, I have worked with different organizations serving in different functions like customer service, logistics, production planning & sales, marketing and business development functions. I was also the founder-CEO of a start-up called "Innovative Enterprises". The venture was in the retail & distribution business. I blog at


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