Are you Brave Enough to Be Dumb

The courage to ‘not know’ may be the greatest leadership courage of all.

Mark Miller, the VP of High Performance Leadership at Chic-fil-A, told me that he would tell his younger self, “Stop trying to have all the answers.”

Not-knowing seems weak. Ego hides behind a facade of knowledge and competence.

Don’t pretend you know when you don’t. Most people know you’re faking it anyway.

Double benefit:

Humility enables leaders to not-know and makes space for others TO know.

Everyone waits for instructions from the all-knowing leader. Can you afford to have people waiting?

Courage to not-know instills boldness in others.

If you always know, they’ll stop offering suggestions.

Courage to not-know honors the skill and creativity of the people around the table.

Brave enough to seek advice:

Greg Dyke, Director of the BBC from 2000 to 2004 asked two questions when he took the helm of the struggling company.

  1. What is the one thing I should do to make things better for you?
  2. What is the one thing I should do to make things better for our viewers and listeners?

Francesca Gino observes that new leaders often feel a need to have answers (Like Mark Miller) and explain THEIR vision. It might seem weak to ask questions before establishing your competence as a leader.

Gino’s research indicates the opposite, “… asking for advice increases rather than decreases how competent you are perceived to be.” (Rebel Talent)

Tip: The use of “could” is better than “should”. There’s more space to answer openly if you ask, “What’s one thing I COULD do to make things better for you?”

Action steps for today:

  1. Ask a dumb question. “This might be a dumb question but I’m wondering …?”
  2. Ask your team, “What one thing could I do to make things better for you?”

Where might leaders need to practice not-knowing a little more?

How might leaders not-know in a leaderly manner?