How many times do we think we need to know it all? Who knows everything? Probably only a few chose ones. However, sometimes, we are exposed to people who are the ‘know it all’ and they get on our (mine for sure) nerves. Knowing all is not good, knowing a lot is better.
How can we be okay with not knowing everything? How can we be humble, authentic and honest with ourselves to stand in front of people when not having all the answers. I am teaching a class in global talent management at New York University. There, I use a disclaimer that I do not have answers for all questions that might come up. In my class are other students who certainly have other experiences, skills and practices than I do. Hence, I am the first to allow them to contribute and share their expertise and knowledge, so others can learn including me.
From conducting 360 feedback sessions for my global coaching clients, I have learned from a stakeholder meeting that she would empower a leader when admitting that they do not have all the answers. It is not a weakness, on the other hand, it takes a lot of courage to disclose that we don’t have all the answers. In my opinion, it is more important to have the correct answer than a bad answer. Saying: “I don’t have all the answers at the moment,” sounds humbling and authentic to me. As a leader we can certainly answer: “I will have the answer shortly once I check with my team.” Leading is not a solitary function, leading is working together as a team with knowledgeable team members.
Leading from above the line (the 15 commitments of conscious leadership, Dethmer, Chapman, Warner Klemp,2014) is a concept that holds some surprises and truth. As a leader we want to be open, curious, and committed to learning when leading above the line. If we are leading from below the line, words like closed, defensive, committed to being right are disclosed. This is certainly not the way to lead a team to success.
Be open, be curious: asking many questions, be alert, be present in difficult moments is required of a leader.
Committed to learning: life long learning is a must for everybody. Once we think we learned a lot or enough, we stop, this is when our competitors are taking over.
I am challenging myself to read at least one book per month. This has helped me to keep up with many trends, but also to be open learning more. My mantra is L3 = life long learning. I wished I had the luxury of Bill Gates 5 hours a day to read. One day, I will make that my challenge for now I am fine with not knowing everything but learning and growing more.
“I know that I know nothing,” Socrates
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