Why “I don’t know” is a viable – even desirable – answer for CEOs


‘I don’t know’: Why admitting you don’t have all the answers is perfectly okay

I was planning to write a post on the use of “I don’t know” by CEOs, but Jason Freedman (co-founder of 42Floors) beat me to the punch with this article published on TheNextWeb.com. I have found in general that CEOs who use the phrase often are typically much better performers than those who never use the phrase. Jason spells out the reasons in this excellent post.

Also see this piece on the drawbacks of know-it-all leaders written by Hugh Arnold, adjunct professor and former dean at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management (published this week by Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail). In a nutshell, Hugh asserts that leaders who convey that they have all the answers are essentially saying to their employees:

  • “I’m smarter than all of you.”
  • “Even though you may have deep knowledge and expertise, I don’t need to waste my precious time seeking out your ideas.”
  • “I don’t need your help.”
  • “All I really need from you is to put your heads down and do what I tell you.”
  • “I don’t know” is looking like a pretty good alternative, especially if you are dealing with knowledge workers, wouldn’t you say?

Photo Credit: ryanmilani via Compfight cc

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