We live in troubled times. (Hint: We ALWAYS live in troubled times, but that’s for another post.)
During these times of uncertainty, anxiety and change, as leaders we are called upon more than ever to take our teams to “the promised land.”
Will we get there? Will we be alright? What’s going to change, and what will remain the same?
Will the project be successful? Will we get new customers or clients? Will the budget get slashed again?
Will I lose my job? My savings or retirement fund? My home?
When questions like these are posed of leaders, most avoid saying what is often true: “I don’t know.”
Leaders avoid saying “I don’t know” for a variety of reasons:
- They are afraid of looking foolish.
- They are afraid they will look weak.
- They are afraid they will lose the respect of the people around them.
- They don’t want to admit that they aren’t all powerful, all knowing, all wise. (Remember the Wizard of Oz?)
Leaders, above all, need to tell the truth.
That is the source of strength, of courage, and of inspiration. And who doesn’t want to follow a leader who is strong, courageous, and inspiring?
The next time someone asks you a question, and you don’t know the answer, don’t fake it. Don’t avoid it. Don’t try to make it go away with humor, sarcasm, or misdirection.
Admit it. You don’t know. Follow up with what you’re going to do:
- “Let me look into it.”
- “Let’s explore options and ‘what if’ scenarios.”
- “Let’s see what we can do even if we don’t have all the answers.”
But start with “I don’t know.”
Here’s another reason to say it. When you don’t know, even when you don’t say it, we all know you don’t know. You’re not fooling anyone.
So say it out loud: “I don’t know.” And then, do something about it. You do that, and you’ll have our respect, and our confidence in you will be strengthened.
How do I know this is true?
I don’t know.