Thoughts on Leadership is the brain child of Paul Bridle. This is the place that Paul shares his monthly thoughts.

Knowing That You Don’t Know

Posted: September 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

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Hi and welcome to another thoughts on leadership, this time I’ve given the title ‘Knowing that you don’t know.’   Strange title isn’t it?  Think about it for a moment.  What we know is important.  And if I ask you ‘what you know’, well you’d spend the rest of your life telling me if you tried to catalogue it.  But we’ve got to the stage now when knowing that you don’t know something is very important.  In other words, there are a few subtleties here.  How you deal with that?  How you acknowledge that?  And how you know that you don’t know?

First of all let’s deal with the way you are about not knowing.  Can you remember as a child at some stage and you got ‘hey Johnny did you know that those things over there are dangerous’.  Johnny looks back and goes ‘I knew that’.  Ok, it’s a typical thing that a child will do.  A child doesn’t want to appear not to know.

When we get older and supposedly wiser then we start to realize how childish that behaviour is so we start to mask it and eventually we outgrow it.  At least most people do, some never do!   But you know; if you said to somebody did you know this, and they pretend that they did; you would recognise it.  And if you say to somebody did you know something and they start waffling on about it as if they do they make it even worst.  So the first thing I want to ask you is; ‘are you very careful in terms of making sure that you don’t try and pretend that you know something when you don’t know it?’

The next aspect I want to focus on with you is; there are going to be things that you don’t know about and if you go around trying to pretend that you know about everything, or feel that you should learn everything, those are equally negative situations to be in.  You can’t know everything.  What’s important is that those around you have access to the information that you need. So, be able to acknowledge to yourself that you just don’t know, and that you need to know, or you need to have someone around you that knows.  Getting to that position becomes very, very important.  How good are you at doing that?

When situations arise, when you are dealing with conflict, when decisions have to be made: Are you someone who allows people to give you the information you need?   Or, are you going round as someone that knows it all and you have to know everything before a decision can be made?  These are typical mistakes that a lot of people make in terms of just not being able to relax and feel comfortable with what they don’t know.

My questions for this month are:

  • Have you fallen into this trap?
  • Are you that person who is trying to pretend you know it all with people and making a fool of yourself basically?

Are you that person who recognises that you are not going to know everything and embraces others?  Do you encourage others to know things that you don’t know, and allow yourselves to discuss things together so that the right decisions are made and mistakes aren’t formulated because of the wrong information?

So, really what is it that you don’t know?  What is it that you either need to know or need people round you to know?

I hope this has been helpful.  I hope you are having a great time this year, its been challenging for a lot of companies, and a lot of people.  But, equally I am coming across some exciting organisations that are really grasping the opportunities that are out there.  And I hope you are one of those.

Have a great month.  See you again next month.

– Paul

P.S – We have launched a new podcast that will bring you interviews with top executives from business.  Go have a look at

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