From parents to teachers to presidents, we've always looked to authority figures to have the answers. There's a considerable amount of pressure for leaders to solve problems and know exactly what to do when an issue arises. Fearing they'll appear weak and inexperienced, leaders can often make up the answer, opting to pretend rather than acknowledge they have no idea what the right move should be.
This is the worst thing you could do. Not only could this completely backfire, but it will stall your team from developing into proactive, independent employees. Being the boss isn't about authority, it's about leadership. You can't fix an issue effectively from a place of uncertainty.
Believe it or not, it's okay to drop the superhero act and admit you're a regular human being. Having all of the answers will not make you appear knowledgeable and qualified; in fact, it will actually have the adverse effects. The power of saying "I don't know" could be the best thing for your company, your employees, and your role as a leader. It's what separates great leaders from bad ones, and what increases employee retention and innovation.
1. It promotes collaboration.
When faced with an obstacle, your gut reaction may be to exert your expertise and quickly provide a solution. However, a much more powerful alternative would be consulting your team out of the gate. "Let's figure this out together" will only have positive outcome. Not only will this show you value their opinion, but it will also help the team come to the right solution. Your colleagues could have been through something similar in a previous role, and consequently offer valuable insight on what the next steps should be.
Some of the biggest wins can come out of not knowing. Admitting you don't know what to do evens the playing field. When everyone feels equal, the problem solving process becomes collaborative rather than authoritative.
Success achieved through a group effort is much more powerful than when achieved through a single person. Imagine the camaraderie and culture that will start to cultivate when the team solves a problem or reaches a target together? As a leader, collaboration should always be your number one priority -- not your self-pride.
2. It empowers your employees.
When you always know someone will have the answer, why would you bother figuring it out yourself? Your staff will never progress into independent, proactive employees if they feel like their input isn't valued. Not only will this prevent them from developing leadership skills, but it could quickly trickle into all aspects of their role.
The last thing you want is for every minute decision to fall on your lap. After all, you have enough to do. You've hired these professionals for a reason. Unleash the control and trust they'll make the right decision. And if they don't? You can bet they'll learn from their mistake and become stronger, adaptable employees in the future.
3. It makes you relatable.
Employees want to work for someone that inspires them, not someone who tells them what to do and constantly comes to the rescue. That's why being honest about your limitations is so important. Transparency is essential for any company and management team to create a strong culture amongst their staff.
From social media trends to coding languages, it's impossible to understand jargon from every department. So the next time you're being presented reports, interrupt and ask your team to explain any terms you don't grasp instead of hoping that the lack of understanding won't become an issue in the future. It always will.
Once employees observe you asking questions, they won't be afraid to do the same. Strong team work starts with conversations, so lead by example. Just because you don't know the answer doesn't meant you're not qualified or deserve to be there. Whether there are 10 employees or 10,000, clarity, communication, and trust need to be an integral component of your leadership values.