Listening to You

There’s a pretty good chance that everything you know to be true isn’t. “Knowing” things that you really don’t know will get you in as much trouble, or maybe more, then not knowing about them at all.

The good news is that there also is a pretty good chance that you know stuff that you don’t even know you know.

The stuff you know that you don’t know you know is sometimes called intuition or instinct. I think psychologists would say that it’s actually things you’ve learned that your conscious mind has forgotten but your subconscious mind hasn’t.

Leaders who lead in difficult times trust those instincts. They also know that they could be wrong about most anything so they verify what they “know” to be true. In order to do either of those you must work with a wide open mind.

When you’re unsure of anything it’s good leadership practice to seek out advice from those you trust. Listen to them. When you’re sure of something it’s a good idea to listen to opposing viewpoints too, if only to determine if others are as sure as you. This is when an open mind is particularly important.

Great leaders have open minds, they seek out advice and then act. They may or may not follow the advice of others. They listen to everyone and everyone includes themselves.

Don’t forget, your instincts could be spot on. Just because you don’t remember learning something doesn’t mean your entire brain has forgotten it too.

Listen to yourself. Trust your instincts and trust your gut. Your experience will not mislead you, your experience has no motive of its own. Using your personal experience to make decisions shows that you can learn from your successes AND your mistakes.

So go ahead and seek the guidance of others but seek your own guidance too. When you listen to you it’s possible you’re listening to the one person who can help you the most.

You most likely know more than you think you do, but remember, no one knows it all.

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.