I don’t know about you, but I live with an underlying pressure that I am supposed to have all of the answers and always know the right decisions to make. It doesn’t matter if I am at home, work or on the football field. When I was starting out as a young pastor, I believed that asking for help or admitting that I was unsure of what to do next was a certain sign of being a terrible leader. I can remember at times making up answers just to appear right and hoping that I seemed confident enough to thwart any potential questions.
While I cannot say that the pressure has lessened at all, I can say that I do a better job lately of looking to others for help and answers. Even when I am in a role as leader, or maybe especially so, I look to my team for thoughts, insights, plans and ideas. It is ludicrous to think for even one moment that I might hold all of the answers. Even something as simple as finding my car can become an exercise in my natural desire to know everything. When my wife and I were dating, we attended a UCLA football game. Part of the parking lot at the Rose Bowl is on a golf course and we spent almost two hours walking in circles around the course searching for the car. On several occasions she pointed a different direction, but I confidently ignored her suggestions. When the tow trucks arrived on scene, I started to become genuinely worried and we eventually found the car…in the exact direction that she had suggested quite some time before.
Through the pain of many decisions, I have come to this conclusion regarding the people in my life: their way might be better! Now, if only I always remembered this in the moment. The majority of my disagreements with my wife happen when I forgot this truth. Errors at work happen largely because I ignore this basic premise. So, let me share three problems with ignoring the premise and three benefits from heeding it.
Ignoring this premise leads to:
** a bottleneck of ideas and action. A leader who feels that he or she must know everything compels all activity to flow through themselves which causes a shut down of progress.
** a sense of arrogance and entitlement on the part of the leader. What else could somebody feel if they know everything about everything?
** a level of stress and pressure that no person is designed to handle. The leader who knows everything must work very hard to maintain that illusion and increases stress everytime he or she must provide information that does not exist.
On the contrary, learning that their way might be better leads to:
** an empowerment of team members and a true sense of personal value which will naturally lead to greater collaboration and success for the team as a whole.
** an assortment of ideas, perspectives and actions to choose from that will inspire both creativity and innovation.
** a true releasing of others in their areas of strength…which should be an underlying value of all healthy leaders
This is not an easy task for me, nor do I believe that it is easy for you. It is humbling and challenging to admit that we might not have all of the answers. However, leadership is less about being right and more about encouraging and supporting others to accomplish their dreams. I can honestly say that one of my greatest joys happens when people have an “a-ha” moment…and this is impossible if I have to know all of the answers.