Correct me if I’m wrong but as leaders, we are often unrealistically expected to have the answers to every problem at a moments notice. Our followers expect us to have an answer to every question, a solution to every problem, and a never ending bounty of knowledge at our disposal whenever they need it. Sound familiar?
And in those moments when we respond with “I don’t know” it’s almost as if the world stops. How could it be that we as the leader are unsure of how to respond? I must admit, accepting that I can’t possibly have all of the answers to the problems I face as a leader has been one of my biggest challenges because it has forced me to realize just how much I don’t know. As problems arise, I do my best to find a solution or provide guidance based off of the experience and knowledge that I do have but unfortunately, sometimes that’s just not enough…
But as I began to experience this problem more and more I remembered a quote that a cherished mentor of mine shared with me during my time in the Army. He said, “As leaders, we don’t need to have all of the answers. We just need to know where to find them”. The more I reflect on his guidance the more powerful it becomes. As leaders, it is often our responsibility to help solve problems, to find solutions and to provide guidance but its unrealistic to assume we have all of the information needed already at our disposal. Instead, we must know where to find the information needed. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have the answer to every question right away and to provide meaningful solutions to every problem but that’s unrealistic and naïve. If we truly want to be effective in our role as a leader, we must accept that we can’t possibly know everything and that’s ok!
But if we don’t know everything than how will the questions get answered and problems get solved? Well, by humbling ourselves enough to ask our teams for help. If we don’t have all the answers then we must know where to find them and be willing to ask for help. As challenging as it may be to admit, we often find the answers to the questions we don’t know how to answer by asking our followers for guidance. That’s right, you as the leader would go to those you lead for help and guidance. The truth is, the most effective leadership is team oriented in nature where a leader engages their team for help just as much as the team engages their leader. Each member of our teams possess their own strengths and weaknesses and our ability to lean on those strengths in areas where we as the leader may be weak is the ultimate tool in effective leadership.
In my experience as a follower, the best leaders I’ve had weren’t the ones who claimed to be all-knowing and independent but rather those that trusted their followers to be everything that the leader wasn’t. It was those leaders who consulted with their team members to gather knowledge and expertise that they themselves didn’t possess that were most effective in their roles. And instead of making rash decisions based off of the limited information they had, it was the leaders who worked collaboratively to problem solve and come up with solutions that really gained my trust and respect as the leader.
A big part of my passion for leadership is my genuine desire to help people and that has forced me to accept help myself. As much as I hate admitting that I don’t have all the answers I believe that has made me a stronger leader because it has forced me to work together with those I lead. It has made me a better coach by forcing me to be a better listener. It has helped me develop confidence in my own leadership abilities by being open to learning from others. And most importantly, it has taught me that in order to be truly successful as a leader, I must first be a successful teammate.
Thank you for reading! If you liked this weeks post, please don’t forget to like and share to help me reach more leaders! Also, I would love to hear your feedback below!