The Strength in Not Knowing

The most successful people know they don’t know it all. They also know, and this may be even more important, they know what they don’t know. They know where their knowledge bank is weak and they aren’t afraid to admit it.

This is especially true for successful leaders.

I once worked with a guy who refused to hire a very qualified candidate for a job opening. Everyone knew he was qualified for the job but the guy who would be his boss didn’t want him. When I pressed him for a reason he finally said, “I don’t need a guy “pushing me” because he knows more than I do.”

That my friends is what a really, really weak leader sounds like.

Strong successful leaders actually staff for their weaknesses. They are not threatened by those who may know more than they do in particular areas. They know that their strengths lie in other, likely more critical areas. They don’t bog themselves down with trying to know it all; they have strength in not knowing it all.

They have the courage to admit what they don’t know, they have the courage to admit it when they don’t know what they do not know and most important of all, they have the confidence to ask someone they believe does know.

They confidently use their team’s knowledge to fill-in their own gaps. They are not embarrassed by their gaps, they are confident enough in what they do know to know it’s perfectly acceptable to not know it all. They do not pretend to know more than they do because they know that sooner or later their “fake knowledge” will be discovered.

If you’re a leader who doesn’t know then ask. Ask confidently and ask as often as necessary. It doesn’t damage your credibility with your people, it adds to it. It’s how Authentic Leaders do it.

7 thoughts on “The Strength in Not Knowing

  1. In Jim Collins book “Good To Great,” after studying many companies, he discovered the most successful leaders were humble and vulnerable. Some would say these adjectives describe someone who is weak. When a leader displays these characteristics, it shows they’re human. Who wouldn’t want to follow that?

    p.s. Spring is only 21 days away. 😉

    1. In fact, humans will only follow humans. Those who pretend to be super human don’t last long as a leader, we humans figure them out all too quickly.

      Spring training starting in Phoenix and I have a tee time… it doesn’t get better than that 🙂

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