Everyone knows how annoying it is when a leader pretends to know all the answers and fakes his or her way through tough situations. When a leader behaves like this, it can cause workers to roll their eyes and jump ship when it seems that no one is truly wrangling with problems.
So how do leaders admit that they’re confused and don’t have the answers, without coming off as weak and incompetent? The first thing good leaders must do is admit their biggest fears to themselves. They have to face the nastiest voices in their own heads that are screaming phrases like “I’m foolish,” “How did I let this happen” or “I’m unfit to lead.” Once leaders face these fears they can move on to the following steps to deal with problems effectively:
- Step One. Stop pretending to have all the answers and embrace your confusion. Show others that you have the courage to work with them to find answers.
- Step Two. Admit to your co-workers that you are confused and that you need to understand the situation. Don’t apologize when you tell others you don’t have the answer to the problem. Set the tone so that your co-workers, colleagues and employees are willing to sit down and participate in a real learning session.
- Step Three. Give your inquiry the structure everyone needs. Assert yourself as a leader, while at the same time inviting others to join you in your quest for answers. Take charge of and introduce a process that will clarify and resolve the problem.
- Step Four. Pay attention and learn from your experience. Keep an open mind and really listen to what the others who are working with you have to say.
- Step Five. Think out loud. Let colleagues hear you working through the information that is brought to you. Don’t sit there silently, decide what needs to be done, and then announce your decision. No one appreciates that kind of old-school leadership anymore.