Don't Pretend to Have the Answer


Personally I think there are a few things that leaders, whether in politics or business, don’t do often enough. I’d say two of the biggest things are admit when you don’t know the answer to something. The world is far too full of people pretending. Here’s a problem we’re trying to solve. “Okay, I’m the leader. I’m going to tell you how that problem should be solved.” It’s a combination of arrogance and insecurity. That fact is if you knew the answer, the problem wouldn’t exist. I think the first step to solving any problem is to try to figure out exactly how much or how little you know and how much you don’t know and then work really hard to find out as much of that as you can.

I think another idea that is valuable for leaders or anybody is to not pretend that your solution is perfect. Economists are good, maybe too good, at highlighting the costs and benefits of everything and so it’s said that an economist can tell you the cost of anything, but the value of nothing because once you start to weight the costs and benefits of everything, it kind of makes things so utilitarian it takes out the joy.

No solution is perfect. If you can propose your idea and acknowledge the potential benefits or strengths of it, while acknowledging that you know there will be people left out, there will be people who will not be better off, there will be people who might lose their jobs in the process, but this is the best of the situation, I think that’s hugely valuable. I think that’s something politicians are terrible at. We’re seeing this in the States right now with the Affordable Care Act. The idea that something that big can roll out perfectly is absurd. Nothing ever goes that well. So if you can say; “You know what? There’s going to be a lot of misery, a lot of confusion, a lot of X, Y and Z, but it’s worth it in the pursuit of greater good,” I think that’s a much more realistic way of leading and then you don’t find yourself having to apologize for all the things you said that didn’t come true. 

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