Leading Through Ambiguity

Bo Parfet
4 min readDec 5, 2020

Developing a clear vision for how to build and manage a business is a crucial element to its success. Creating detailed business plans, defining roles, and identifying barriers are important aspects to leading effectively and with clear direction.

This year has tremendously impacted businesses around the globe as they navigate the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 crisis. For , successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, and adventurer, effective leadership includes the ability to be flexible and adaptive in an ever-changing and, at times vague, environment.

Parfet is a successful real estate professional, having spent much of his career as a financial analyst and investment banker. He comes from a long line of community activists and philanthropists and has developed a business model that combines individual financial success with a wider social impact.

Parfet and his wife Meredith co-founded Denali Venture Philanthropy to build upon that family legacy of philanthropy and to improve the lives of others by addressing significant global issues in access to education, access to healthcare, and environmental protection. In doing so, the organization builds relationships with small businesses and start-ups from around the globe to improve local social and economic conditions.

With years of experience developing successful businesses, Parfet is able to act as a consultant for many entrepreneurs to ensure they are on a positive path forward. A big piece of advice he gives others is to maintain a clear vision and defined goals in order to lead effectively.

Whether leading through a global health pandemic or the imminent and unknown fluctuations in business development, the art of being flexible and adaptive is crucial to ensuring stability and long-term growth.

Parfet shares some essential actions to help to develop a mentality that will provide for successful leadership in the face of ambiguity:

Define and mark the new path forward. As businesses evolve and adapt to new chapters of their stories, a strong element of effective leadership is the clear definition of not only what is expected to change, but also that which will remain the same. Often, businesses lose good employees due to a lack of communication and uncertainty around individual responsibilities. Allowing employees to understand why things are changing and what it means will help them feel more connected to the business and work toward the same goals for success.

Allow for constructive feedback. In general, people do not cope well with quick and unorganized change. Thinking back to March when COVID-19 first hit, the entire country was in a panic and the result has been devastating for businesses. While leaders should strive to be quick and decisive in their actions, it is important to look toward your trusted teammates and ask for input and assistance. Often, coming together to identify the best path forward works much better than an individual trying to define expectations for the future on their own. Employees who provide constructive feedback and feel as if they are heard are more likely to maintain strong ties within the organization.

Remember what once was. Encouraging team members to reminisce in what once was can allow everyone to properly navigate new and impending changes. Try to refrain from telling the team to “move on” and let them feel the emotional connection to the past. With time, the new becomes the norm and everyone works as they did before. Allowing open and emotional communication builds a trusting and comforting space for employees to feel valued and appreciated.

Be positive about the future. During times of ambiguity, the most helpful thing a leader can do is paint a positive picture for the future. Develop a vision board to allow employees to see the plan and each step forward. Share significant dates or milestones as markers to help others maintain a stable, positive outlook. Knowing that things may never be as they once were does not mean that things cannot get better in the future. Stay positive and keep moving forward.

Bo Parfet is the co-founder and CEO of Denali Venture Philanthropy (Denali) , an impact investment organization focused on promoting global social change which he runs with his wife Meredith. He is an entrepreneur, real estate professional, philanthropist, naturalist, adventurer, and author.

Parfet began his career as a Research Fellow at the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and later joined J.P. Morgan on Wall Street. In 2012, he founded Iconic Development, a successful real estate development firm, and now joins DLP Real Estate Capital as Managing Director .

Parfet’s passion for adventure earned himself a name among adventurers. He is one out of about 85 people in the U.S. to have completed the Seven Summits, reaching the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. He shares this harrowing experience in his book, Die Trying: One Man’s Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits. He also contributed his stories to the book, They Lived To Tell The Tale: True Stories of Modern Adventure from the Legendary Explorers Club.

Parfet has been recognized for his global-civic volunteerism, receiving the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for completing more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service worldwide.

As a community leader and global citizen, he is a member of the Explorer’s Club and Young Professionals Organization. He is an advisory board member for the non-profit, Adventure Scientists and sits on the board for the Gilmore Car Museum, a family legacy.

Parfet resides in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and two young sons. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Colorado State University, a Masters in Applied Economics from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.