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CAREER TIPS-This Is Why The Best Leaders Embrace These Three Words

Posted 30th November 2020 • Written by Amy Blaschka of •

We’ve all worked with leaders who thought they knew it all. These are the same people who worked extra hard to make sure others were aware of their vast knowledge base, using every opportunity to brag. Secretly, those leaders were terrified of admitting a lack of knowledge, fearful that they’d be categorized as weak or ineffectual if exposed.

But the truth is, others likely viewed them as obnoxious, out of touch, fixed in their ways, and unwilling to acknowledge any blind spots.

Ironically, saying, “I don’t know” could have strengthened their leadership position.

Here’s why the best leaders embrace those three words:

They know that cockiness isn’t the same as confidence.

Think about a leader who’s boastful, talks incessantly about themselves, and who seems only to use a series of exponential adjectives. That cockiness is likely masking their insecurities and preventing others from getting a word in edgewise.

An arrogant, emotionally immature know-it-all does most of the talking; a confident, emotionally intelligent leader is self-aware enough to admit to not having all the answers and is willing to listen to others who might.

They understand that being human is more important than being right.

When you can say “I don’t know” with authority and sincerity, it shows that you’re willing to be vulnerable and a perfectly imperfect human. Rather than an untouchable who’s always right, you’re viewed as someone genuine who cares about getting it right.

They rely on and are open to learning from others.

The best leaders aren’t threatened by intelligent individuals; they surround themselves with smart people because they’re open to learning from others. If a leader doesn’t know the answer to a query, she knows she can count on one of her team members to offer a solution. By maintaining a growth mindset and a belief that great ideas can come from anyone, that leader expands her knowledge base while encouraging and empowering her team to step up.

They demonstrate intellectual humility.

Many leaders fear that if they show vulnerability, it projects weakness. Or if they acknowledge an instance where they were off base, they’ll lose credibility. Yet research shows that leaders with intellectual humility—the willingness to recognize that what they think and believe might be wrong—have an advantage over those who rely upon ego and power, gaining influence and earning others’ respect and loyalty.

Leaders who possess intellectual humility don’t feel they need to be the smartest in the room, nor are they pushovers; they’re open to recognizing that they have blind spots.

They understand that “I don’t know” isn’t the end; it’s just the beginning.

The savviest leaders aren’t content with giving up and leaving things unknown. Instead, they combine curiosity with action for true power and wisdom. They’re willing to take the initiative to investigate and find the answer by combining “I don’t know” with three more words: “I’ll find out.”

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