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Leadership is not about what you know… Leadership is about uncovering ‘what you don’t know?’

Interestingly when you read the myriad of books on the topic of Leadership, many well renowned authors explore the common traits of successful business Leaders ... dissecting and granulising all facets from behaviour to skills and capability sets.

Over the past 20 years I've had the pleasure of working with some extraordinary Leadership talent ... observing and learning. Triggered by a recent conversation, something became apparent to me, when thinking about the many very competent Leaders, there is a strong desire and self-awareness about getting to know what they ‘don’t know’ … and how they use this to make better business decisions, build relationships, convey vulnerability, show empathy and gain intuitive understanding.

There are a range of areas that this self-awareness can be positively applied ... What don't I know about myself, my people, my products, my segment or even 'my success'.

Am I aware of the impact I have on people around me … my behaviour, my moods, my listening skills? Does my presence influence people to tell me the truth … or do they express only what they think I want to hear?

When I read a profit and loss statement or a balance sheet, am I simply reflecting on the areas that I am comfortable with, or am I inquisitive to explore what I don’t understand and what doesn't make sense to me.

Do I really know how people feel working at the 'front line of my business'? Do I know whether people have bought into the company vision and feel connected to our brand? To what extent have I explored the risks of the agreed strategic direction? Do I have a plan 'B'?

Leadership is not about what you know… Leadership is about uncovering ‘what you don’t know?’

What ‘don’t I know’ that would allow me to make a more informed choice or decision about hiring a Senior Team Member? I don’t know how the person would respond or react when very stressed. I don’t know how supportive of colleagues this person will be under tough conditions. Unless I observe closely, I don’t really know if this person defaults more to 'leadership or management' behaviours.

As a Leader, what ‘don’t I know’ about my products or services? I may not really know how my brand stacks up against others in the market or where we are positioned or perceived by clients.

I am unlikely to know what the next innovation is going to be to affect our sales, unless of course we are the leading innovators in our segment. Do I really know if our own team would choose our products if they had a choice?

We could keep going simply to make the case. Importantly, competent Leaders continually grow and develop by stretching what they know, continually asking themselves, 'What don't I know' but should?

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