I believed investors demanded a complete understanding of the market and a foolproof strategy. I thought customers required a total understanding of their challenges and comprehensive tools to fix them. And I was convinced that employees expected me to know the right solution for each and every problem we'd encounter.
I was wrong.
I've raised money without a perfect strategy, sold an incomplete MVP product to new buyers and worked alongside smart employees who came up with the right answers without me.
Leadership is not having all the answers.
Misunderstood ideas of leadership cause many to think that leaders are expected to be everything to everyone. For me, this deceptive mindset was self-fulfilling. And it was a heavy burden to carry.
Leadership is not about holding all the answers. It's about leading people to figure them out on their own.
Leadership is asking the right questions.
In her recently updated New York Times bestseller, Multipliers, Liz Wiseman notes that "Multipliers ask the questions that challenge the fundamental assumptions in an organization and disrupt the prevailing logic."
Multipliers are leaders who leverage and grow the intelligence of others whereas diminishers aim to prove they are the smartest guy or gal in the room.
Wizeman tells the story of Ray Lane, the previous President of Oracle. Along with CEO Larry Ellison and CFO Jeff Henley, Ray grew annual revenue from $571 million to $4.2 billion and was looking to create a plan for the next stage.
Early in his plan-making journey when Ray attempted to announce his strategic ideas to the Oracle leadership, they revolted. So, he reset and started again by asking questions and engaging the team in coming up with the solution on their own.
This new approach resulted in his leadership team seeing that "the strategy was fresh and compelling, yet it was familiar to them because they had co-created it and could see their fingerprints on it."
According to Wiseman, Ray emerged as a "more powerful leader." The team embraced the strategy and grew revenue from $4.2 billion to $10.1 billion under the new plan.
Leadership is leading others to discover.
Stop putting the weight of the world on your shoulders. It's not your job to solve every problem.
Respect and leverage the skills and knowledge of the people around you. Ask questions. Share information. Discuss the market forces at play. Be a resource that helps your team discover the right path on their own.
And read Multipliers. It's great.
To my team, thanks for putting up with me as I've learned these difficult lessons. You are a strong and intelligent group and I'm honored to work by your side.