If you study leadership, read about great leaders throughout history, or even if you just think about what you should do (and not do) to be a good leader, you may come away with a very wrong conclusion – that good leaders are always the smartest people in their organization and therefore have all the answers.
If you look a little deeper in your examination of leadership and great leaders though, you will discover that the very best leaders, the ones who were able to sustain greatness for their organizations over long periods of time, were NOT the smartest people in their organization and did NOT have all the answers.
I may not be a great leader – yet – but I do study leadership and try to apply what I learn to the leadership of my company, my family and myself. This lesson is one that is very important to learn and one I try to practice daily.
First, good leaders surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are. At our company we try to find, hire and train people that are just that – smarter than me. We know that if we have the smartest people on our team, together we can build something great.
Second, good leaders are regularly expected to make important decisions. People on the team often look to their leaders with the expectation they must have the “answers” – that’s why they get the “big bucks” right? The fact is, the decisions may be the leader’s to make but the input used to make the decision and the recommendations to be considered should come from the leader’s teammates.
When faced with a decision, I often (though I should always) ask my teammates for their input and recommendations. I might say, “This is a challenging issue. Are there any angles we haven’t explored?” or “What do you recommend? Why do you recommend that?” or “If this decision were yours to make alone, what would you do?”.
My teammates feel more like teammates this way and not employees. My teammates also may have different perspectives on the issue than me. Getting their input makes the final decision a better one.
So remember – one of the marks of a good leader is knowing that you don’t know everything. It’s okay not to. It’s just not okay to act as if you do.