You don’t have all the answers. You can’t. If you do, as the old adage says, then you haven’t been asked all the questions.
Strong leadership requires many things: great communication skills, decisiveness, and trustworthiness, just to name a few. Regardless of the length of the “must haves” list for leaders, knowing everything is not among them. It’s not even an honorable mention.
It’s not only not an expectation for us to know all things, but it’s literally impossible. The further we move up the executive ladder, the less understanding we have of the day-to-day challenges and work scope of the positions we left behind. Even more, those work scopes are continually evolving to adapt to changes in the marketplace, so even if you have a memory like a steel trap, you simply can’t know what you don’t know.
It’s vital that leaders come to terms with this, because leadership is not a fake-it-till-you-make-it situation. Our pride may tempt us to pretend that we know the best solution or course of action for a given challenge, but without all the actual information, the decisions we make could be detrimental to our team. The further we chase the facade the more we dig our heels in on our decisions and stop listening to others. Eventually, our workplace culture will pay the price as our pride increasingly isolates us from others in our organization.
Leaders, we can’t look at our informational gaps as a weakness, but as an opportunity to validate and empower our staff. If you’ve done your hiring right (ask me what that looks like!), then you’ve already entrusted the details to a capable, high-quality team. Let them do their job. Ask them to fill in the holes of your understanding and you’ll not only receive accurate information, but you will also validate their expertise and show that you value their contributions (hello, inclusion!).
The responsibility of leaders to guide and direct their organizations is weighty, but we can’t confuse the importance of our role with the idea that we have to do it autonomously. Don’t pretend to know what you don’t know to save face, as you will inevitably fall right on it. Tap into the invaluable resource of your team. You will not only be better equipped to make decisions, but will also foster an environment that welcomes discussion and the open exchange of ideas. In short, you’ll create a workplace where both you and your team will actually want to be.