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Leadership Thought #300 – Never Get To the Point Where You Think You Know It All

February 17, 2012

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I often meet business owners and leaders who think they have it all figured out.  Whenever this happens, a red flag goes up for me right away.  The best leaders I know are in a constant learning mode.  They are very aware of what they don’t know and need to learn.  They soak up information like a sponge and are energized by new thoughts and ideas.   Leaders who are unwilling to admit their own shortcomings or lack of knowledge are eventually confronted with the very reality they are ignoring.  It may take time, but it always happens.   It’s even worse if they are completely unaware of where they fall short and end up getting blindsided.  In leadership positions, ignorance is not bliss.

Leaders aren’t supposed to know everything, but they are supposed to be highly inquisitive and always in search of a better way of doing things.  A good leader is always asking questions.   They intuitively know that their organization is just a reflection of them.  It makes sense that if they are getting smarter, then the organization is becoming more intelligent as well.   Smart people are attracted to other smart people. They want to work in an environment that cultivates ongoing learning and development.  It becomes much easier to recruit talent if they feel they will not only get better by working for you but that they will also have a say in the future direction of the company.

The “know it all’s” were annoying in grade school and this is only amplified in adulthood and the workplace.  No one wants to be engaged in a long-term one-way dialogue with another person.  The luster eventually wears off as you realize the other person has no real interest in what you have to say.  The moment you feel you have it all figured out as a leader and that everything you disagree with is either a fad or wrongheaded, then it’s time to sell your company or do something else.

Most leaders need to reinvent themselves every 5-7 years to keep their company vital and competitive.   You don’t make progress by standing still or looking to the past for answers.  You need to broaden rather than narrow your sources of information.  Progress requires questioning what you are doing and why you are doing it.  The best way to ensure this happens is to be in a constant learning mode and to always encourage constructive feedback. Never get to the point where you think you know it all.