What was it that made William Shakespeare the greatest writer of all time? According to the great poet John Keats, it was what Keats called "negative capability." That's the capacity to hold yourself in balance between the two poles of a situation without imposing your will in order to force a resolution. Doing so allows ambiguities to fully play out and opens everyone up to new levels of understanding. Keats described this quality as "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason."
I devote much of my time and effort helping leaders build capabilities, yet this one is really tough. In our culture, we're not good at negative capability. We rush to judgment, facts be damned, and are eager to find solutions even if no good ones exist. Humans don't tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty well, yet it's the tension between uncertainty and resolution that makes our greatest drama, fiction and music.
In organizations, negative capability empowers leaders to approach problems and conflicts without rushing to one side or the other. It lets them "slow down the game" and allow all factors in a situation to become apparent before a solution is even contemplated. Negative capability is the purview of wise, calm, and controlled. It's a quality we could all do with more of.
How might building "negative capability" improve how you lead your team and yourself?