As Albert Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." How true that is. Too often, though, leaders create problems rather than solve them. We all know a leader that says "this is the issue," and then ends up generating more issues rather than solving the original problem. "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand"(Colin Powell).
Leadership should be something we take great pride in. Leadership should be something that we focus on, not just when it is time for a promotion or job change, but every minute of every day. Both currently and in the past, I have been fortunate to have worked for some great leaders. These leaders have mentored me and helped me grow, both personally and professionally. The world needs more great leaders, leaders who can take the most complex problems and offer the most innovative solutions.
How do you, as a leader, do this? I have learned, from those great mentors mentioned above, that part of this process requires you to rely on your ability to listen, to be open to your team's ideas, to delegate, and finally, to challenge not only your team, but yourself.
Listening has been hailed as one of the most important skills anyone can possess. To truly listen is to be a friend, a confidant, someone to whom another can speak and feel comfortable. When we listen, we learn, we grow, and we give our team the opportunity to reveal how much they can help us. Listening not only strengthens the bond between leaders and those they lead, but also builds solid foundations for life-long relationships – both personal and professional.
As we listen, we start to realize that maybe we don't have all the answers, and that's okay. I have always been taught, "you don't have to know all the answers," and this could not be more true. As a leader, being able to say "I don't know" reminds those we lead that we are human, we are not perfect, and more importantly, we know we are not perfect. Saying "I don't know" validates us to others.
Leaders should be able to admit they don't know, just as they should admit when they are wrong. Being able to say "I don't know" or "you know what team, I screwed up!" shows our team that we don't just talk, but we act with integrity, ethics, and leadership. Great leaders don't know everything. Great leaders are fortunate enough to have great people supporting them to help find the answers to questions.
Chad McCluskey, Leadership Butler Class of 2008
Augusta Department of Public Safety