Sunday, April 22, 2007

Your Leadership Suck Because You Know Too Much...

While I can't say I was inspired to write this post by I Help You Blog's "101 Great Posting Ideas for Your Blog"  I was curious to see what kind of traffic it would generate.  Since most of what I write falls under Idea 7, Post an Alternate Position, I figured it was a fair trade.

If you like what I've written or even if you don't, leave a comment recommending another "Great Posting Idea" from the list of 101 and I will post in the theme of that idea.

Take care all...


In Survival Is Not Enough, Seth Godin writes how competence and a winning strategy can become a barrier to innovation. If your worldview is “We do it this way because it works and I am going to be the best at doing it that way”, chances are, you are not going to change the way you do it, i.e. competence stalls innovation.

After reading Godin’s essay on competence, I started thinking the same relationship might exist between technical competence and leadership competence, i.e. your technical competence can become a barrier to improved leadership.

Unfortunately, while the principle Godin outlined applied, it was not wholly satisfying; something was missing. A Peter Drucker quote I read early this week gave me a clue to the missing piece.

The most important thing in communication is to hear what is not being said.

- Peter Drucker

To hear “what is not being said”, you must know what the speaker could be saying. If you lack the knowledge of what “could be said”, it is not possible to know what is “not being said”. This implies that you must know a lot about the subject at hand.

For a competent technician, knowing a lot about the subject at hand is their job so, it’s easy for technicians to know what is “not being said”. What about an organizational leader; what happens as you move out of the technical arena and into the realm of leadership where the domain is larger than your ability to know everything?

Well, the focus must change and the focus sits with Socrates; sort of. When Socrates speaks of knowledge, he states that wisdom is limited to an awareness of your own ignorance; with a little twist, awareness of your own ignorance becomes, knowing what you do not know.

Where a competent technician becomes successful by eliminating her exposure to ignorance by constantly work to eliminate what she doesn’t know about her domain of expertise, an organizational leader becomes successful by expand her awareness of the extent of her ignorance, by constantly work to gain knowledge of what she does not know.

This brings me back to my assertion, “The skill set that brought you to the leadership table is not the skill set that will enable you to succeed.” More often than not, technical competency, reduced ignorance and increased knowledge, is a major contributor to admission to the leadership table. However, once seated at the table, you must accept two truths. First, the domain is or will become larger than your ability to eliminate your ignorance. Second, your responsibility as a leader is fundamentally different from your responsibility as a technician.

If you don’t accept these truths and rely upon your old competencies, you will find yourself and your organization on the path to failure.

Here is the Alternate Position:

How much time do you work on eliminating personal ignorance? Would you better serve your organization by becoming more aware of your ignorance, by becoming more ignorant?  I say you should eliminate the barrier of competence, quit working so hard on what you know and start adding to what you don’t know.

What do you think?  Let me know...

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