Stop Pretending to Know the Answer

July 22, 2020

What exactly do you think is your role? Here Micah shares a lesson they learned about doing what is best for themselves and ultimately the team and organization.

I remember my first leadership role really well. It took six months for me to get the hang of it. But at first, I was total crap. I was put in charge of a small team of six. I had just been promoted from my peer group and now I was the boss.

My overriding need was to be seen as someone who had all the answers. I didn’t want to show a moment of vulnerability, so I puffed out my chest and came off like a friggin’ expert on everything. Fact is, a lot of the time, I did know the answer. But there were important times when I said I knew, but I didn’t.

I made up sh*t that sounded good because I thought it was weak to do anything else.

What an asshole I was! I eventually learned that leaders are not supposed to know everything. That’s what functional experts are for. I can only speak about things I actually know about. The leader’s role is to enable others to find the answers. It’s not the leader’s job to have all the answers.

What I finally sorted out is that leadership is not ‘I know’. It’s ‘let’s talk’. In other words, having a conversation is a critical leadership skill. It facilitates the growth of individuals and teams to find the best solutions.

I was too insecure at the beginning of my career to know this. But, if I had, I am sure that first team would have performed better and appreciated me more. As my confidence grew, so did the teams I led.