The Know It All Leader and What It Means
Know it all leaders abound. I think I know it all. You think you know it all. This post is for the leaders, entrepreneurs, managers, executives, and CEOs. In truth, this message is a for everyone because it can benefit everyone. In many circumstances (not all), we approach an individual, a prospective problem, a conversation, and the situation with a major misconception. We think we know it all or at least we know the answer. Why? Because of our experience and role, we have success and authority. This is a strength and our greatest potential weakness.
We Know it all, Don’t We?
- Individuals or teams: We know the goal, and we are determined to help design a plan.
- Problems: We know the issue, and we are dedicated to helping the person (or team) solve that issue.
- Conversations: We know what needs to be said, and we are committed to inspiring and helping the person (customer or team) hear the message.
- Situations: We know what needs to happen, and we are devoted to making it happen.
Objectively, these can all look like wonderful things. We are committed in all cases. So why are any of them an issue?
We are committed to our goals, our perspectives, our interpretations, our understandings, and our visions. Despite how we attempt to convince ourselves that it is about the other person’s (or the team) needs, and the corresponding benefits, our efforts still evolve out of our objectives. This limits our ability to learn or innovate with alternative ideas and insights. We lack empathy as a know it all.
If We Know It All, Can We Know More?
However, our knowledge in the above situations also interferes with the work we do, our communication, and the relationship we have with the other person or team, in every single situation. The old saying, “There’s more than meets the eye,” is all you need to remind yourself that no matter what, you cannot know it all. And this is the attitude you should aim to adapt. Let me illustrate to you how dramatically this would affect the way you might approach the 4 circumstances above.
- Individuals or team: Learn to understand what they need, so ask what does the person or team think they need?
- Problems: We need to solve a problems, so what is the issue from other’s perspective?
- Conversations: We know they are sending us a message, so what are they trying to communicate?
- Situations: What do they hope to see happen and why is this their goal?
Do you see the difference? Everything becomes a question instead of a smug conclusion. Something for us to discover, unravel and explore–instead of something we define, decide and direct. It also gives us the opportunity to really listen, although research shows that 90% of people are poor listeners, especially leaders. This approach is advantageous for you and the other party, and I will tell you why.
Most importantly, it establishes a tone of respect, care, and trust. If you assume that you know it all and that your role is to tell them what you know, you are bound to leave them feeling belittled and ignored.
By giving the opinions of others genuine regard and attention, you are communicating that their voice is more important than your perspective. Better listening rings loud as the key to better working relationships. This is crucial for leadership and all genuine relationships. In contrast, to those that know it all or for those who always want to be right.
Pulling It All Together
Furthermore, as a leader, asking questions invites employees or customers to explore their own line of thinking and personal growth. If they have not seen it this way before, they may now consider your involvement in the process to be a gift. Certainly, it communicates that they are the experts on their situations. And that you are solely a partner, contributor, or supporter to their process.
In summary, it does wonders for the dynamics of the working relationship because it makes it about others and not you. Subsequently, our goals involve helping, listening, coaching, consulting, supporting, and serving. This is classic Servant Leadership. A leader’s success depends on the team. Film director Richard Eyre commented, “Change begins with understanding and understanding begins with identifying oneself with another person: in one word, empathy. The arts enable us to put ourselves in the minds, eyes, ears and hearts of other human beings.”
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Finally, you are not a know it all, so accelerate your leadership success. Go here for Rick’s Superstar Leadership eBook.