Many Leaders Seek Certainty – Wise Leaders Welcome Uncertainty
This week as I was going on my daily walk, I listened to one of Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead” podcasts. It was a one-hour interview with Adam Grant, the psychologist, author and professor at The Wharton School.
Grant has recently published a new book, “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.” In his interview with Brown, Grant talked about how the best companies question their “proven” business strategies, always wondering if what has worked in the past and present will work in the future.
It is so easy to trust in what has succeeded in the past, or, as I wrote several weeks ago, “up until now.” However, if business leaders relax and stop questioning their underlying premises or business assumptions, they can fall into the trap of certainty.
When we are young leaders, we crave knowledge, proficiency, and skill. We want to prove ourselves to the teammates we lead, to our own managers and to our clients or customers. We want them to be certain about our acumen so they can trust our ability to lead.
Then, before we realize it, we ourselves become certain about our leadership. As soon as that occurs, we have fallen into a trap.
The trap of knowing. The trap of being an expert.
As soon as we think we “know,” we stop our learning journey. Please do not consider yourself an expert at what you do – strive to always be a learner, a lifelong learner.
Many of us have taken the learning journey – from:
knowing what we know, to
not knowing what we don’t know, to
knowing what we don’t know, to
not knowing what we know.
A critical point on that journey is growing comfortable with the point at which we know what we don’t know. Another way to characterize this leadership inflection point is we grow comfortable with being uncomfortable.
As Adam Grant states in his book, “If knowledge is power, then knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.”
Grant told Brown that his research at Wharton has shown that most people prefer the comfort of conviction to the discomfort of doubt. What we all have to do, he offered, is learn to be comfortable with that discomfort.
Please do not become comfortable with your own knowledge and processes.
Please seek a diversity of perspectives among your team.
Please teach yourself to become comfortable with uncertainty or doubt.
I promise this process will not make you a weaker leader. Conversely, it will help you grow into a stronger and more respected leader.