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The Illusion of Knowledge

As leaders, we must always be cognizant of this illusion. Many a manager and leader have been foiled by this illusion. You know, the ones who think they either have all the answers or need to know all the answers. Either way, the illusion becomes a fatal leadership flaw. Part of being a great leader is having a keen sense of self-awareness. Part of this self-awareness is the realization of what we know and what we don’t know. Those that are keenly aware of what they know and don’t know are often some of the best leaders.

Knowledge quoteFor me personally, some of the best leaders I have ever worked for were the first to admit when they didn’t know something. You could say that they did not have any illusion of knowledge at all. There is an old adage that the best leaders surround themselves with great people that possess the knowledge required to deliver on the business strategy. That is, the leader themselves doesn’t have all the answers, but the combined knowledge of the team does.

Some of my greatest failures as a leader have come when I have either had the illusion of knowledge or tried to keep up the illusion (thinking that that was the right thing to do!) Over time, I have learned some hard lessons as I try to get better at being a leader. To that extent, I have continued to try and focus on surrounding myself with smart people. The thing is, for me personally, it is hard not knowing all the answers or not having “all the knowledge.” In my earlier HR years, I always prided myself on being the HR guy that kept up to speed on legislative changes, the latest recruiting trends, etc. As I worked my way into management/leadership roles, I continued to try and be the manager that “had all the answers.” I realized that if I wanted to be a better leader, this just couldn’t happen. I need to let go of the illusion of knowledge and rely on the excellent people I had working for me.

Here is the real danger in all this – there many managers and “leaders” out there who continue to operate under and with the illusion of knowledge. They believe they are the ones who have all the answers, they are experts and those under them simply need to be directed on what to do. In essence, these leaders function as a hub of information, dispensing it out as they see fit to those that work for them. In their heart of hearts, they believe that because they are in a position of power and influence, they have all the required knowledge and those beneath them do not. As you can imagine, this type of leadership approaches stifles innovation, stagnates organizational and individual growth and generally drives disengagement and turnover.

So, as leaders, let’s make sure we continue to do regular self-checks and ensure we are not operating under the illusion of knowledge. We cannot take the leadership approach of thinking that because we are “in charge,” we are always the smartest people in the room. By being humble in our thinking and surrounding ourselves with great people, we will all be better leaders and have better organizations as a result. Remember, we do NOT have all the answers…nor will we ever! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Inspirationalquotes.club

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