Seven Ways to Not-Know Like a Leader

Pretending you know, when you don’t, makes you intentionally ignorant.

Confusion is the point of opportunity, if you have the courage to not-know.

you're stagnant if you aren't confused.png

Four dangers for all knowing leaders:

Pretending you know is an act of self-sabotage.

  1. Lost credibility. Smoke-blowers become obvious with time. They may not say it, but the more smoke you blow, the less credible you become.
  2. Limited influence. Your words mean less when you pretend you know.
  3. Persistent ignorance. If you pretend you know, you begin to believe you know, even when you don’t.
  4. Missed opportunities. You’re stagnant, if you aren’t confused. Organizations and leaders get stuck because they run from confusion.

Seven ways to not-know like a leader:

  1. Assume you don’t know. The illusion of knowledge is the reason leaders remain ignorant. “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.” Peter Drucker
  2. Create environments where not knowing is expected. Begin meetings by asking, “What are you learning?”
  3. Say, “I hadn’t thought of that. Tell me more.”
  4. Find clarity in private. Invite the people who really know into your office for a meeting.
  5. Keep notes during meetings. Writing is thinking. Record and ask questions from your notes. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin family of companies, is a notorious note taker.
  6. Say what you know. Ask, “What am I missing?”
  7. Keep a running list of things you’d like to know but don’t.

Bonus: Honor those who ask questions when they don’t know. You get what you honor.

People who “know” don’t grow.

What’s dangerous about pretending to know?

How might leaders not-know in leaderly ways?