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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

I Don't Know

There is something to be said for not knowing everything.

Because in not knowing comes knowing through learning.

Only a wise person can say "I don't know," especially in the workplace or when one functions as a manager or leader. It is often in the knowing that we find our strength, but in not knowing, we can embrace the opportunities to be human - to gain respect, deepen humility, and conquer ignorance.

Experts in their fields will often admit they don't know all, and then the search for information broadens their thinking and deepens their knowledge. Sometimes we do not necessarily want to find out what it is that we don't know, yet in positions of leadership there is that certain expectation that we....well...that we know.

But we're not perfect.

Being human means checking our ego at the door and being honest with ourselves about where the center of our knowledge base lies...and where we need to go to assist those who need the additional information they are seeking, unless we determine we will explore it together and then deepen both our command of the information and our relationship.

And face it. It is much easier to find out what we don't know than it is to risk flying by the seat of our pants with a response that might result in a loss of credibility, the potential to be exposed as a liar, or the self-respect that takes a hit when we weren't entirely genuine in our response.

Sure, we can be perceived as ignorant by saying "I don't know," but a certain power emerges from saying it when the time is right. Using the phrase too often may make those around us ponder what we do know, and then the credibility card once again comes into play. And research supports the notion that those who can openly admit not knowing the answers tend to be those who are more intellectually and emotionally confident.

As a leader, I've gained more respect over the years for those who openly admit they don't have an answers or the knowledge at hand, but then use their skills to not only get it, but share it with others.

Because isn't that what leadership really is?

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