How to Lead Like a Know-It-All, When You Don’t Know It All

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No one likes a “know-it-all”.

But in leadership, that’s exactly what you need to be in order to make effective leadership decisions.

The problem is there is no way you can ever know everything going on in your organization. And to try to do so would reduce you to a mere micro-manager, not an effective leader.

So, how do you lead like a know-it-all when you don’t know it all?

It requires a particular skill I call Leadership Inquisition. (Not to be confused with the Spanish Inquisition- Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition)

Leadership Inquisition is not as harsh as it sounds. It simply involves leveraging the organizational knowledge held by trusted members of your team.

The key is in knowing how to access that information.

This goes beyond asking them “How’s everything going?” Leadership Inquisition takes this a critical step further by asking 3 strategic questions:

1. What do I need to know?

It begins with fact-finding.

Members of your team are placed at strategic points in your organization. One will know details about the financial picture, another about staff morale, another about facility issues, and so on.

Ask them what information you need to know. Your sharpest people will avoid minutia and will give you the big picture you require.

2. What do I need to understand?

Next, ask them for context and insight.

“What does this information mean?” “Help me make sense of this.”

Give your team members a license to think and to give you analysis.

3. What do I need to do?

Ask for a recommendation.

“Given what you’ve just told me, what do you think we should do? What would you do if you were in my place?”

You may or may not take their counsel, but effective leaders always seek the perspective of their trusted advisors.

One of Bill Hybels’ leadership axioms is that “facts are your friends”. To make the right call, leaders rely on getting the right information at the right time.

And with Leadership Inquisition, you really can lead like a know-it-all, without ever becoming a know-it-all.

How do you gather the leadership information you need?




the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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