Four Words that Define Leadership
Last week I read a four-word phrase in Business week that knocked me over.
The article, by G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón, was called Knowing vs. Learning. The phrase that put me on the floor: Fearless humility exposes possibilities.
One of the organizations I work with has been trying to create a new model of innovation. Key departments in the organization are filled with what the article’s authors called “knowers” – people who think they know all they need to know, and who are fearful of trying new things. This is the classic problem that knowers create: focused as they are on not looking bad, they look for solutions that allow them to blame others when there’s a problem. The solutions will rarely be good ones. But entire organizations can run this way for years.
Creating a culture of “no” – we can’t do it unless we find someone else to blame – is stifling and deadly. Organizations grow and thrive when the culture allows them to learn and discover as they go. This requires humility -the willingness to admit that there is stuff that can be learned, that hasn’t been tried, or even discovered yet. That’s when unimagined possibilities appear.
The word “humility” is not always well-received in business circles, particularly among the knowers. Learners, however – those who are not afraid to admit they don’t know the answers – get it. And it was gratifying to read that a couple of authors in Business Week get it too.
Fearless humility exposes possibilities. That, in a nutshell, is the wisdom of leadership.