Often with leadership, we feel like we need to have all the answers. I am continually watching leaders shoot from the hip, often inaccurately, because they think they are supposed to know something as the leader — and if they don’t know the answer immediately off the top of their head, then they feel like they’re a failure. But what personal leadership really means is always being willing to not know something, and to be willing to find the answers or invite the wisdom of those around you. That’s a big difference, and in practice requires more humility, openness, and creativity. In short, it requires a posture of learning.
For some reason, too many people keep thinking that not knowing = weakness. But the reality is we build stronger teams by getting people to engage. And if we take the approach that “I’m the boss, therefore I know,” then we’re behaving in a manner that says ‘Do what I say, your opinion doesn’t matter to me.’ That is not a culture of engagement; that’s a culture of unengaged followers, and usually unloyal ones at that. Why would they stay committed if they’re not engaged, or their expertise and wisdom is never being consulted; their cognitive muscle never being exercised?
A posture of learning says that ‘we’re all learning and growing through this together.’ It’s amazing what the power of a positive, inviting question can do to the depth of relationship. When you solve a problem together, you build commitment to follow through on that solution and a willingness to be held accountable to your progress and results. It builds dialogue and connection. That’s true leading: bringing a team together to find amazing solutions. Leadership is more about the greatness we can draw out of people than the pouring of our greatness into people.
Lead through the process of thinking, problem solving, questioning, creating solutions, seeing the value of, and honoring your team. Lead from a posture of learning, and you lead by example.