Oct 12

But I don’t have all the answers!

“But I don’t have all of the answers!” is probably something that you don’t want to hear from your leader or your child’s teacher. Or is it?

I just finished reading David Culberhouse’s latest blog post, “Embracing the Unknown.” It reminded me that we as leaders can’t know everything and don’t have all the answers. The rapidness of change will not allow leaders to be “all-knowing.” If people truly want great leaders they must expect that they don’t have all of the answers. Similarly, great leaders must exhibit that vulnerability that illustrates, “I don’t know everything!”

The hierarchical leader of yester years spoke with great conviction and hoarded the knowledge that he or she possessed. As long as I hold the knowledge, I hold the power.

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Leaders in today’s society must divorce themselves from that style of leadership if they truly want to be effective. Rather than have all the answers, they must ask the right questions which means they must embrace the unknown.

Although the vision must always be crystal clear, the pathway to achieving the vision will often meander through some fog. This is especially true in the education world today. Our vision to ensure the success of every student is well-defined. However, the road to achieve that vision is vastly unknown. Most believe that the factory model of education needs to be drastically overhauled but we know no different. Knowing is far more comfortable and so we avoid the unknown even though it continues to cause us great frustration!

Embracing the unknown and accepting that we don’t have all the answers allows us to start asking the right questions. The right questions will challenge our thinking and expand our perspectives. It gives us permission to leave the safety of the middle and begin to explore the outer edges of our own paradigm where creativity and innovation live. We cannot remain on the shore but instead must get into the water, the deep water!

Leadership styles should be far different today than 20 years ago. The all-powerful and all-knowing leader is simply an organizational myth! Leadership today is about gaining diverse perspectives and that can only come when you don’t have all the answers. If we want true and sustainable change, leaders must be willing to muddle through it, reflect on it and ultimately embrace the unknown.  

Given the lightning speed of change that exists in our society it is unfair to assume that any leader will have all the answers. And that is why leaders must be confident in not knowing and accepting of being vulnerable. Knowledge can always be ascertained but learning comes from something different! Learning comes from embracing the unknown and not knowing all of the answers!

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