Leaders Must Ask Questions and Admit What They Don’t Know


One trait that is frequently disregarded but has a significant impact in the dynamic world of leadership is humility. It has nothing to do with being afraid to exercise authority or having doubts about one’s ability to make decisions. Rather, it’s about acknowledging the boundaries of one’s understanding and the transforming power of acknowledging what they don’t know and asking questions.

The idea that leaders need to know everything is a common one. They should radiate omniscience and unflinching confidence. These false assumptions can have negative effects as well, such as stunting creativity, creating a fear-based society, and impeding sincere cooperation.

Here’s why leaders should embrace questioning and acknowledge their ignorance:

Fostering a Culture of Curiosity and Innovation

Great leaders understand that innovation flourishes in an environment where curiosity is encouraged. By asking questions, they demonstrate a genuine interest in understanding various perspectives and uncovering new insights. When leaders model this behavior, they inspire their team members to explore, experiment, and think critically, ultimately fostering a culture of innovation.

Building Trust and Authentic Relationships

Admitting ignorance or asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a display of authenticity and vulnerability. When leaders acknowledge what they don’t know, they humanize themselves in the eyes of their team members. This transparency builds trust and fosters genuine relationships based on mutual respect and understanding.

Facilitating Effective Problem-Solving

Leadership isn’t about having all the answers; it’s about guiding the collective intelligence of the team toward effective problem-solving. By asking questions, leaders invite diverse perspectives and tap into the collective wisdom of their team members. Admitting ignorance opens the door for collaborative exploration and innovative solutions that may have otherwise remained undiscovered.

Continuous Learning and Growth

In a rapidly evolving world, knowledge becomes outdated at an unprecedented pace. Leaders who recognize their limitations and embrace a growth mindset are better equipped to adapt to change. By asking questions and acknowledging what they don’t know, leaders signal to their team members the importance of continuous learning and personal growth.

Navigating Uncertainty with Humility

The reality is, no leader can predict every outcome or foresee every challenge. In times of uncertainty, humility becomes an invaluable asset. Leaders who are comfortable with ambiguity and willing to seek guidance or expertise when needed are better equipped to navigate turbulent waters and lead their teams with confidence and resilience.

Being a leader is about asking the correct questions and accepting humility, not about knowing all the answers. Recognizing their limits and extending an invitation to cooperate, leaders may create an environment that is creative, trustworthy, conducive to efficient problem-solving, encourages ongoing education, and skillfully handles ambiguity. Thus, let’s reinterpret leadership as a path of development, inquiry, and humility rather than as an unchallenged position of power.

See how a Modern Observer Group coach can enhance your leadership skills.  Schedule a call here or contact us at the information below. Modern Observer Group programs are based on the Businetiks system as detailed in the book, “The Businetiks Way.”