Assumptive Leadership

I went to an all boys, Catholic Military High School. There were no girls, no women, nothing but boys, Christian Brothers and retired or active military personnel. 

It was really a great school and I learned a ton there; every day and every thing brought a new learning experience. Sometimes I even learned stuff in classes but much of the learning just came from the restrictive and often intense environment. 

During my junior year a unique opportunity came up to take a typing class. I had zero interest in learning to type; I had no plans to do anything that would require typing skills so typing wasn’t even on my radar. I was however very interested in girls. 

What made the typing class unique was that it was being offered at the all girls school that was located just across a large field from my all boys school. I assumed if I took the typing class there would be girls in the class and that would be… well you know.

I was so excited on the first day of the semester when my typing class was set to begin. About 30 of us kind of floated across the field on the way to paradise. We opened the door slowly and looked in… there was not a girl in sight. 

The schools had altered the class schedule so that all the girls would be in class when the boys “invaded” the school. There were no girls in the hall as we were quickly escorted to the classroom with the typewriters. 

It was an absolutely crushing blow when I realized I was going to be in a typing class for 3 months with 29 other guys and that it was going to be taught by Brother Theo. I mean seriously, not even a female teacher… this was a horrible disaster. 

I would like to say I was conned but no one ever said anything about girls taking the class. No one ever said there would be girls in the hall and no one said we would meet even one girl. I had assumed a whole bunch of stuff. It was in that moment that I learned one of the biggest leadership lessons of my high school years: NEVER ASSUME, never, never, never.

Leaders can’t afford to assume anything about anything. They certainly can’t afford to assume anything about anyone. Making assumptions about people can be a leader’s biggest mistake because people will very often surprise you.   

The worst thing about making leadership assumptions is that it’s so unnecessary. All the information a leader needs to make an informed decision is available to them if they only look or ask. 

Assumptions lead to quick decisions. Quick decisions based on assumptions often lead to mistakes. Overly assumptive leaders believe they know just because they are the leader, they fall into the trap of thinking they can’t be wrong just because they are the leader.

They will never be more wrong. 

The most effective leaders don’t assume. Even when they believe they know, even then, they verify their facts. Great leaders need good judgment but good judgment adds little value when it’s fed with assumptions and not facts. 

Don’t be an assumptive leader. Be a leader who gathers real facts, be a leader who would rather wait one extra day to make a good decision instead of settling for a quick one. 


8 thoughts on “Assumptive Leadership

  1. Strong leaders are capable of making on-the-spot decisions and do that very well. From as far back as childhood, however, I learned that the most sagacious leaders, like my dad, my pastor and a couple of teachers, always took their time. They were not loud or mean. They seemed to survey the situation or the moment and then seamlessly outline their commentary. This is a trait that I try to incorporate and that I have noticed in the most superb of people in leadership. Assumptions are just too risky. I’ve seen people of power & money make terrible assumptions and while they didn’t lose their power or money, they lost respect. After that, only their power and money mattered.

    1. Those strong leaders who appear to make on-the-spot decisions have actually played the “what-ifs” out in their mind long BEFORE they needed to make a decision.

      They used their vision to anticipate what might or could happen and plan ahead.

      That skill is almost always found in great leaders.

  2. De La Salle and Carondelet in Concord, CA? I got to take typing classes over at Carondelet. Looked like there were plenty of girls there.

      1. Hey Steve,

        Went to an All-Boys Catholic High School in the Bronx, NY. Your engaging writing took me right back to those wonderful days……….I thank you for that.

        As you intimate an effective leader always questions his/her own assumptions….eh?…..thank you for that.

        There is a strategic/spiritual tone to your blogs and your comments…..I thank you for that!

      2. Thanks Joe, “they” made our high schools days challenging – that’s progress why they are so memorable…. and special 😀

        You’re also correct about the “tone,” that’s more intentional than not.

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