Why It’s Best if a Leader Doesn’t Know Everything

Obviously, a great leader needs to know his or her business, and to be highly skilled at performing the tasks that get your product or service to those who need and want it. It is also important for a great leader to be able to influence the people on his or her team to perform efficiently, with great effect in order to maximize the production, marketing, selling and delivering of the product or service.

At the same time a leader who knows everything is either a genius or a liar. I can say that because I’ve been around long enough to know that no one knows it all, and there are precious few, if any, who know all there is to know about their own business and products. Leaders and their newest trainee both need to keep learning; especially leaders.

The leader who comes off as knowing everything is usually received in the minds of followers as a “know it all,” hence someone who is egotistical, conceited, arrogant and/or unapproachable. These are all characteristics that demoralize followers by making them feel insecure in their understanding of the business they participate in. A know it all leader is often the foundation of an underperforming team because his overabundance of knowledge leads followers to feel inadequate. When your workers or associates feel inferior, their performance will be sub-standard; definitely not the best that it can be.

Would it not be better to be a leader who is the foundation of a team that produces at its peak most of the time? Note: we are all human and perfection is not part of our genetic make up. Did you know that striving for perfection is a fast way to ensure mediocrity? That’s is one of life’s interesting paradoxes, isn’t it?

Since this world is a very negative place, I am sure you have seen or experienced the negative influence of “know it all” leaders, so I need to shift to the positive and offer a solution.

You may be a leader who is highly skilled in your area of endeavor, and that is great, but you will lead your people further, faster and better if you show less than you know. Without compromising the effect of your authority, you can ask questions of your workers or associates. You can show them that you value them by asking questions such as “can anyone see if I’ve overlooked anything?” after announcing a plan, for example. Or, “are there any suggestions or ideas on how we can improve the plan I just laid out?” People will respect the strength, when it is tempered with humility.

Asking questions that communicate your understanding of your fallibility helps your workers to view you as a “real person. Your questions give you an opportunity to learn, as well as receive feedback from your people, through their words and body language. They help you pinpoint their overall feelings such as their satisfaction or dissatisfaction about the culture and environment in your workplace, as well as their views of the project at hand.

Questions can also be used to instruct or guide a person to a desired outcome. Simply construct questions, the answer to which describes an unfavorable result. Such a question can then be followed by one that leads to a favorable result, which can then be followed by “Then don’t you think we should choose the approach that brings the favorable result?”

With that type of questioning, if your voice tone and body language are open, non-condescending and convey objectivity, you let the person questioned have a say in what will be done. It allows him or her to decide to want to do what you want done and feel like it was his idea. People won’t do what they don’t want to do very well, or for very long.

By contrast, you could give orders with a pointed statement and cause the worker to feel like a slave with little or no value in your sight, create resentment and encourage the worker to do the minimum required to get the paycheck and keep his job. Your workplace will also be stressful for all concerned. It can make it a place where the job gets done (barely?), but no one is successful.

Do you see how you and your followers can benefit from an environment in which you are not perceived as knowing too much? An environment in which they feel safe?

Remember, how you say a thing is much more important than what you say.

Would you rather have someone tell you “you’re wrong,” or ask you “why did you cut the corner?”?

Are you aware that there are scientifically proven reasons why these ideas work the way I said they do? I’ll address those reasons in a future post, but for now, just realize that the way you communicate with people causes involuntary physiological reactions in their bodies that cause either an increase or a decrease in their effectiveness, which impacts your bottom line, either for good or bad.

Have you got a leadership issue or challenge that’s bothering you? If so, leave a comment below, or for faster answering action, send it to me in the contact form below.

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