The Most Dangerous Lie Leaders Believe

The most dangerous lie leaders tell themselves is, “I know.”

DeBono wisely said, “Those who think they know, don’t.” All leaders fall prey to this lie, yes all. How many times have you thought you knew but discovered you didn’t?

You think what you think, because it’s right. Right?

You know too much because:

  1. You confused smarts with knowledge. Being smart concerns brain power; knowledge is about information. Is information growing exponentially? Then you don’t know.
  2. You forgot knowledge evolves because circumstances, research, and people change.
  3. You’ve been right before which makes you think your solutions were the only or best solutions. Truth is, they just worked.

Thinking you know when you don’t is dangerous because knowing:

  1. Closes minds.
  2. Creates defensive postures.
  3. Casts dissenters in negative lights.
  4. Ends curiosity.

Solving the knowing problem:

  1. Keep curiosity alive by slowing down. Fast answers end questions and exploration. Give your team more time to explore. Once again a quick brain becomes a problem. Maybe you should pretend you are dumb?
  2. Seek input from diverse sources. Diversity explodes knowing. Bring your ideas up to accounting, custodial, or support staff. Talk to the guy on the street. They’ll show you you don’t know. “The best ideas emerge when very different perspectives meet.” Frans Johansson (Tweeted by @CFALeadercast)
  3. Entertain the notion there’s more to know. Worse yet, let the uncomfortable words, “I don’t know,” bounce around in your head.

A tension:

Robert Sutton suggests you need enough doubt to keep an open mind and enough confidence to move forward. I bet you aren’t good at doubting.

Doubting your knowing is the beginning of knowing.

Do you think the belief that we know when we don’t is the most dangerous leadership lie leaders believe? If not, which lie would you suggest?

What are the symptoms and cures of thinking we know when we don’t?