Admitting a knowledge gap? How doing so can create a successful leader

January 11th 2021 | Posted by phil scott

Admitting a knowledge gap? How doing so can create a successful leader

A leader is the pivotal cog in the organisational wheel.  The individual that offers guidance, imbues confidence and demonstrates an ability to make important decisions that will influence the wider team and business.

But does the expectation exist for a business leader to know it all?  Does a leader need to be an expert who is fully versed and knowledgeable in EVERY aspect of business?  Must they have already experienced every scenario that comes up?  It is impossible for a leader to know everything about all circumstances that arise during their leadership.  What an organisation needs to look for in a senior leader is not the person that knows it all, but the person who knows how to admit when they don’t.

This is the leader who will ask the right questions to understand the whole situation they are faced with.  This is the leader who will be circumspect in every decision they take; the leader who seeks to surround themselves with the knowledge and experience of others in order to take advice and make the best decision possible.

This is the leader who can be trusted to drive a business forward.

In any scenario, be that business, government or charity, an organisation requires a leader who is driven, tenacious and committed, but most of all, one who is self-aware.  The organisation led by an individual who knows their own limitations and values the insights, knowledge and experience of those around them, will be the organisation which succeeds.

Let’s use Sir Alan Sugar here as an example.  He is an individual who is self-made, a leader who took his drive and passion and created businesses, built a brand and earned a reputation in business and in popular culture.  Using his programme ‘The Apprentice’ as a microcosm for business and leadership, it highlights how important it is to place value on the insights and opinions of trusted advisors.  Sir Alan trusts the knowledge of his aides and uses their expertise to shape his decision making process.  This type of leadership – one that involves collaboration – will be found in the most successful businesses.
When it comes to making decisions, how can a leader ensure that the best outcome is reached?

It’s important to understand whether the decision will be made on facts and experience or with the gut.  The ideal way to make a business decision is to analyse the facts and decide next steps based on these details.  However this isn’t always the case.  Sometimes the situation is new and the prior experience for the business simply isn’t there.  In these situations the leader needs to go with their gut-feeling and make the decision that feels right for the business.

This is where admitting a knowledge gap comes into play.  The self-aware leader can hold their hand up and say ‘I don’t know, this is a new situation for me’.  This is when the leader will focus on collaboration and look to their colleagues to share their experience and their knowledge to help shape a decision.
There is great value in building a strong and diverse team and collaborating with a diverse group of people.  Diversity brings different experience, awareness, and perception to the table that can bring a positive impact to each decision.