An executive who loves not knowing the answers

By Marcia Reynolds via greatleadershipbydan.com   Article

Why Leaders Don’t Listen

“Leaders want to feel confident about their choices, to have the answers under pressure, and to rightly respond to adversity. Most leaders want to be boldly decisive. This desire to feel confident in what you know makes it harder to listen to others and accept new ideas.

Having a sense of confidence in who you are is good for yourself and others around you. Feeling absolute confidence in what you know is risky. In this crazy, complex, fast changing, and full-of-surprises world, it is impossible to have all the answers. In fact, the best answers are around you, in the minds of others and in the collective conversations, not inside of you in your limited memory.

As a human, your brain cannot see all possibilities. Your experience is deficient, your intuition is fallible, and your intelligence is victim to your unreliable emotions and instincts.

Leaders have to have the courage to feel vacant and vulnerable.

An open mind is willing to listen, learn, and grow. As Malcolm Gladwell said in Blink, ‘We need to accept our ignorance and say ‘I don’t know’ more often.’ The more you feel confident saying, ‘I don’t know, let’s talk about it,’ the more clarity you will gain about the best options for moving forward in the future.

Your best decisions will be made in conversations.

No matter how smart you are, thinking through a complex issue can rarely be done well in isolated analysis. As described in The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs, for the same reason you can’t tickle yourself, you can’t fully explore your own thoughts and attack your own ideas. Your brain will block and desensitize you to self-imposed exploration. When someone else adeptly challenges your reasoning and dares to ask you a question that penetrates your protective frames, your consciousness can go to new depths. You might get defensive, but if you take in the challenge your brain will synthesize the new insight into a new awareness for you. You might even laugh at seeing what you should have known all along.”

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