Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fears of Leadership: Not Knowing

There is a fearsome, dramatic scene in the movie U-571. The junior officer of a US submarine takes command of an enemy submarine with a few members of his crew. This submarine is damaged, they are not familiar with the controls and only two of them can read the enemy language. Suddenly faced with a crisis, his men ask what to do? His reply, “I don’t know.”
As a leader you don’t always have to know. You do have to be able to find out.
The chief engineer took the young officer aside, asked for permission to speak and said, “Don’t you dare say to them boys, ‘I don’t know,’ those three words will kill a crew.” What happened then?
In one crisis after another, the young officer never again says, “ I don’t know.” He rallies his crew and calls for information, he calls for options, he engages their minds and their hearts to do what must be done.
Because he was “not knowing,” he learned to seize the opportunity to learn from those around him, to take their contributions and move forward. He was able to turn “not knowing” from a weakness into a strength.
As a professional business and personal coach, I have become very comfortable with not knowing. It allows me the opportunity, adventure and even fun of exploring the knowledge, wisdom and greatness of my clients, and to put their strengths into play to reach their goals. Not knowing can be a powerful strength in calling for options, rallying your crew and discovering possibiliites not obvious beforehand.
Self-Leadership tip: Shift the fear of not knowing into the adventure of finding out.
Question to consider: What are some situations where what you already knew prevented you from finding out other facts you needed to know? What happened?

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