If we lived in an ideal world, perhaps our leaders would, in fact, know everything. However, in our real world, no one knows everything about everything. It takes an effective leader to actually admit when they don’t know everything about something, or at least, that perhaps, someone else might know more about a particular item or issue than they do.
In my more than three decades of observing and consulting to various leaders, both in industry as well as in the not-for-profit and organizational areas, I have noticed that corporate leaders much more readily admit that they do not know something in a particular area than most organizational leaders.
I find that somewhat interesting, because, generally corporate leaders are better trained, have better infrastructures to work with, and generally have more authority, as well as more decisions that need to be made than organizational leaders. In most cases, as well, business leaders remain in their positions for far greater tenures than the leaders of organizations.
While very few leaders of organizations might be objectively be considered even close to being experts, a large number of corporate leaders have undergone extensive training, have quite a bit of experience, as well as much expertise in the necessities of their positions.
Perhaps because in a corporate structure, a top executive is able to surround himself with others that are quite qualified and trained, those leaders feel more comfortable confidently delegating duties to someone else. Top corporate executives are not expected to be experts in all areas, but rather to know where to turn for4 expert advice, and how to make responsible and knowledgeable decisions.
On the other hand, I have noticed that in the vast majority of cases, that leaders of not-for-profits and other organizations often become defensive about their decisions, and fault by either procrastinating and not making essential decisions, often for fear of being criticized, or falsely considering themselves to know everything about numerous issues, even though they often are rather “clueless.”
I have concluded that the only way to address this unproductive or ineffective trend is for organizations to stress leadership training. But, as I have stated in numerous articles and in many of my seminars, most organizations appear to be in denial when it comes to the need to emphasize the importance of qualifying, locating, nurturing and training future, as well as present leaders.
Only when training becomes the priority it should be, will organizational leaders learn that they do not know it all and are not expected to, but that there are methods of turning to qualified experts for specific advice in areas that the individual lacks expertise.
By Andrew Clapton