Overview: People don’t trust leaders who pretend they know everything. The job of a leader is not to be a know-it-all that provides answers to all questions. Like leadership coaching, intelligent leadership is a journey of co-discovery. Getting employees to join leaders on this journey is the essence of leadership.
Leaders are people. As such, they don’t know everything and don’t hold all the answers. Those who act like they do are not genuine and are authoritarian in their approaches to leadership.
It’s OK for leaders not to know everything. It’s not OK for them to pretend they do. Leadership coaching is the art of improving leadership competencies through introspection and answer-seeking. Those who “know everything” need no answers, and consequently, they cannot improve as leaders.
It’s not a leader’s job to know everything. A leader’s job is to find and hire people who have better answers to the problems faced by organizations than they do. Leaders facilitate performance by creating organizational cultures that empower and encourage employees. They give employees all the resources they need to excel.
What Leadership Means
Leadership coaching experts know true leadership is not a quest to learn everything and become smarter than everyone in an organization. Instead, it is a continual exercise of finding and hiring people smarter than they are. Forging these smart people into cohesive units is the ultimate goal of intelligent leadership.
Executive coaching can help leaders achieve these objectives and more. A coach can help leaders discover the true significance of decision-making.
People expect leaders to make good decisions consistently. Although they have the final say in decisions, leaders don’t make them alone. They use input from a team comprised of experts whose opinions leaders weigh against other opinions and the peculiarities of the situation.
Leaders can’t know the answer all the time, so how do they handle this?
Embracing the Role of the Facilitator
The leader’s job is to facilitate. Those who take a back seat and bring in experts to handle an issue lose no authority through their actions. On the contrary, they establish themselves as genuine leaders capable of letting go of their egos for the sake of the common good.
Leaders are solution providers in some cases, but their roles are more complex. Those capable of transcending this level of leadership and stepping into facilitator roles are intelligent, open-minded, and growth-focused.
Being Honest and Vulnerable
Leadership vulnerability is an asset. Admitting they don’t know everything allows leaders to tap into the benefits this asset can provide.
Contrary to what someone not versed in the art of intelligent leadership may assume, leadership vulnerability doesn’t engender scorn. It begets respect.
Admitting they don’t know something makes leaders more relatable, genuine, and trustworthy. It also sets the stage for curiosity. Those who need and want answers must leave their comfort zones and look for them.
By inviting stakeholders to provide feedback and insights, leaders allow reports to actively partake in the discovery process, automatically granting them credit for the solutions and answers that arise.
Asking the Right Questions
The essence of executive coaching is to ask questions that trigger introspection in trainees and lead to unexpected answers. Leaders can practice similar attitudes in their relationships with employees.
Intelligent leaders can discern which questions require immediate answers and which aren’t theirs to answer. By training their reports to try and find answers to their questions, leaders may save themselves time in the future. This approach will also empower employees, making them more independent and effective.
Assuming the Role of a Scientist
Instead of haphazard answers, leaders can provide hypotheses they can test before committing to change on a larger scale. Experimenting and using input from others makes everyone a stakeholder and helps defeat resistance to change.
Leaders don’t know everything. No one does, but it’s not their job to know everything. Their job is to help people go where they can’t go by themselves.