Stop Pretending You Know When You Don’t

Learning begins on the fringes of knowledge where clarity drifts toward uncertainty and confusion. People say things like, “I don’t know.”

Successful leaders build relationships where it’s safe, even desirable, to NOT know.

Perceived knowledge:

Ignorance comforts itself with the illusion of perceived knowledge. You know what the quarterback should do, even if you’ve never played football!

Ignorance stands aloof and passes judgement.

There’s no need to learn if you already know.

Knowing blocks learning.

It’s easy to know how-to-do something you’re not doing.

  • You aren’t leading the meeting, but you KNOW how to lead the meeting.
  • You aren’t dealing with tough issues, but you KNOW what others should do.

How you respond to ignorance sets the direction of your leadership.

Leaders who acknowledge ignorance develop their skills. Leaders who pretend to know develop bad habits.

Create confusion:

#1. Ask people to do things they haven’t done.

The illusion of perceived knowledge bursts when you challenge people to do things they haven’t done. They feel confused.

Knowing ABOUT differs from Knowing HOW.

Some become defensive when they don’t know. These ones don’t grow.

#2. Provide guidance and support, but don’t be too helpful.

You’re too helpful when people resent your intervention. Pull back until support is welcomed.

You help others reach higher by allowing moderate levels of confusion.

Too much confusion:

Moderate levels of confusion open minds and fuel passion.

Too much confusion and people shut down in frustration. Monitor frustration.

Honor exploration.

Respect people who are willing to explore new ideas and try new behaviors.

What dangers do leaders face if they create moderate levels of confusion?