Why Smart Leaders Don’t Have All The Answers, Even When They Do

Smart leaders don’t give people answers to their problems. They help them discover answers for themselves. These leaders know that if you discover it, you own it. That’s one reason, I’ve got 6 more below.

Broadly speaking, there are two ways we learn. The most common way is for someone to tell us information or how to do something.

A more powerful way of learning is discovery. Receiving what someone tells you is not discovery. The discovery process requires more effort. You’ve got to think and look and search. Telling short-circuits the discovery process by settling for someone else’s learning instead of pushing forward with our own learning.

It’s in searching that our readiness to learn and use that learning increases. By thinking hard about a problem we invest ourselves in the solution. We own the process. And when we discover a way forward, we own that too!

Why Is Discovery So Powerful?

Discovery is powerful because it connects with what we think is important and meaningful.

  1. It’s personal. We are most interested in what helps us.
  2. It’s relevant. We value that which is important to us.
  3. It’s inspired. We hear the Spirit’s message to us.
  4. It’s motivating. We want to discover more.
  5. It’s infectious. We want to share what we’ve discovered.
  6. It’s valuable. We value what we work to find.
  7. It’s applicable. We move when we see ways forward.

The Results of Not Having All the Answers

Discovery results in several powerful benefits for the learner and the organization where they work. Here are three:

  1. Increased problem-solving skills.
  2. Increased ownership of insights.
  3. Increased commitment to action.

Who wouldn’t like these results for themselves and those with whom they are work?

If you are like me, you are trying to develop the leadership abilities of others. Discovery is a powerful tool. That’s why I like coaching so much. Coaching is a process to help someone discover what they need to know, and then how to act upon that knowledge.

Most leaders have not been equipped to help people discover. We’ve been equipped to instruct people. Discovery-based coaching is about asking questions to help a person explore. This can be done in short conversations, but produces powerful results.

If you want to improve your discovery skills, my book The COACH Model for Christian Leaders, provides practical ways you can ask powerful questions to help people solve problems, reach goals, and develop their leadership skills, all through discovery.

By helping people discover ways forward instead of telling them, you’re building their leadership ability, and that’s smart.

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    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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