Strong leaders are developed in a variety of ways. When they are being coached into leadership, they would rather follow the actions over the words of their mentor. When you’re in a leadership role and you are creating new leaders, it is important to be of service to them and hold yourself accountable for their success.
“I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know.”
I once had a CEO that regularly told this to myself and former colleagues. He would say that whenever he relinquished control for us to operate fully autonomously or when we deferred to him with certain issues as he was able to assist with some, but not with others. He referred to us as the experts in our areas and if there were certain issues that we constantly faced and none of us had the solution, then something was missing…there was more to be learned. He would humanize situations by being transparent and openly admitting that he did not have all the answers. This resulted in him operating on the same level as myself and the rest of the team—since, by doing this—he created a group of minds working together towards a solution rather than a CEO lecturing a team. He was a big believer in self-improvement and an avid follower of Deepak Chopra, an Indian American alternative-medicine guru, author, and expert in the field of mind-body healing. Those beliefs in self-improvement were spread throughout the team, teaching us all that personal and professional development is a constant progression and the more we learn about ourselves, the better people—and leaders—we become.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW?
Happy teams are strong and productive teams. When built in a certain type of culture, they won’t let their teammates fall behind because there are no individual successes or failures when it comes to teamwork. They work together as a group whether in the office in-person or remotely through video and telephone. As an effective leader, you know how to keep them productive and motivated in most circumstances. You not only know their strengths and weaknesses, but you know and are transparent about yours as well. You help them develop their weaknesses into strengths and transition their strengths into teachable moments, which readies them for leadership roles. You provide them with the training and knowledge they need for advancement. You listen to your team and create purpose for them in your organization. You open opportunities for them to explore and you do all of this because you talk to your team…and this is what you know.
WHAT DON’T YOU KNOW?
A lot. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing or that you can’t step in; it can simply mean that there is something to learn. Not knowing allows you to become a valuable resource to help (you and) your team get the information that is needed. No one knew we’d face a pandemic and not many knew how to manage their situations but I’m sure you are better prepared for the next crisis. Similarly, the fact that you can’t properly teach a skill or demonstrate a technique just means that it is something you don’t know; none of us are experts in everything. You may not be able to show your team what to do, but you can be a resource to lead them in the right direction so they can learn (and later teach) the skills to get it done. Having your team know things that you don’t is perfectly fine. Apple founder Steve Jobs knew this, too. One of his more well-known quotes said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Not knowing isn’t a negative thing. Strong leaders are knowledgeable of this little gem. They see it as an opportunity for growth and development because they look for ways to grow and develop their teams into leaders. It is servant leadership in its purest form. These leaders actively search for ways to keep their teams motivated, engaged, and with purpose. They prioritize being of service to their teams, higher than being of service to the organization. When these types of leaders are faced with something they don’t know, they take action to ensure that additional lapses or gaps of information do not spread. By instilling this sort of value into their teams, they are improving the mental health, happiness, and confidence of these people through holding themselves accountable as a catalyst for improvement.
Give into not knowing. When you do, you show your team (of future leaders):
Vulnerability and transparency can be great qualities for leaders. Fake it ‘til you make it and you are what you pretend to be aren’t always effective strategies and they sure aren’t positive modeling behaviors. Building trust involves vulnerability and transparency because it shows that you want your team to know the real you and it gives them the confidence to show the real them, too. The more you act out positive modeling behaviors, the better chance your future leaders will mirror your behavior and lead by example when they have a team of their own.
It’s okay to ask questions. Leadership requires listening and exploring; no one knows everything about everything. Leaders should show their teams that it is okay to put trust in others when you need extra help. Teamwork, whether from the top down or bottom up, requires input. You put value in your team through asking them for their opinions or feedback.
There is always room for improvement. I’ve never met a single person that looks forward to working with a know-it-all. The key to improving is knowing that there is always something new to learn. Technology gives us access to learn across a multitude of media including online and on our mobile devices so self-improvement is easier than ever. Great leaders never stop learning and that cycle is imprinted on those that they lead.
Look at not knowing as an opportunity rather than a weakness because in reality, it is—especially, if you are in a position of leadership. As former President John F. Kennedy famously said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Be okay with your mistakes, learn from them, and teach others how to avoid them. Be a servant leader and the model of constant learning and growth so that your team replicates that behavior.
Are you the servant leader that your team needs? If not, we can help you get there through a Servant Leadership – How to Create an Amazing Team Culture course coming to our Middletown campus in July and other leadership courses available online and in-person. Reach out to us today to find out how to start on your path towards servant leadership for your organization.