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Confidence in Knowing and Not Knowing


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By Mark L. Vincent

A Steward Leader knows they do not know everything.

The designation of Steward Leader is becoming more widely known. The Steward Leader believes they are granted a trust for the welfare of the organization they serve and all who connect to it. The Steward Leader, therefore, takes the long view of personal and organizational transformation. They are happy for short-term gains, but only with the long-view in mind.

As with all good leadership constructs, inherent talent and acquired skill are part of the mix for the steward leader. Some characteristics are difficult to measure as one or the other: especially when it comes to an approach to knowledge.

Which do you think it is, a talent one is born with or an acquired skill to be able to say one does NOT know something? The admirable Steward Leader is confident in what they know, but also confident in the knowledge they don’t know everything. Even more, they can admit they don’t know what they don’t know. The brain might fill with wisdom, knowledge, data and personal experience, but the Steward Leader knows that the expanding universe outside their brain is vaster still, much of it outside their ability to perceive.

This “don’t know, can’t know some stuff” approach flies in the face of what we might call the Ceasar Leader. The Ceasar Leader postures themselves as all powerful, all knowing, able to conquer worlds under their own bravado. They take credit for every victory, blame an underling for every failure, and change their minds when it suits them–never admitting that they did so.

The world is full of Ceasar Leaders. They bring us corporate failure, international warfare, moral scandal, crashing empires and destruction of the populace. The recession of 2008 anyone?

Putting it into the consulting world where I earn my living:

  • The Ceasar Leader types will pass themselves off as having every answer to your every need.
  • The Steward Leader will tell you they are willing to learn alongside you and your organization.
  • The Ceasar Leader views you as an account to sell and then upsell, taking the credit for any success that might result.
  • The Steward Leader celebrates your success, assuming that the combination of everyone’s effort and openness to learn in that unique place and time brings the possibility success can happen.

Maybe there will be more work to do together, maybe not, but they will part with you as friends and you won’t mind inviting them back.

I want to be counted as a Steward Leader, lifelong learner, fellow traveler. Even more, I want to keep growing my commitment to admit that there is much I do not know. That way I remain teachable, more adaptable, and a better leader over the long haul.

How about you? 
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Mark L. Vincent is the CEO of Design Group International. He serves on the CLA Board of Directors and serves as an Executive Leadership – Subject Matter Expert and faculty for the CLA Online Academy.
The CLA staff wishes you a safe and restful 
Fourth of July Holiday weekend.
 

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