The Leadership Question…Yes Virginia, it is a paradox!

“Being smart enough for the right people to seek you out for opinion, experience, and counsel is a valuable asset…Being smart enough to seek the right people out for their opinion, experience, counsel and opportunity is priceless.”

– Sandy Cerami –

Most people that are thrust into leadership positions by any number of unexpected or unplanned circumstances can struggle to ascertain the best manner in which to influence their charges effectively. Knowing and knowing that you don’t have to know…It’s how the smart grow even smarter.

It is plainly evident to even the casual business observer that when we look to scale in any environment or at any level, there are unique challenges that require multidisciplinary talents and effectiveness. There exist very few individuals, if any, that can accomplish anything of scale without leveraging networks, talents and expertise in today’s global world. But this is not reserved simply for big questions, concerns or challenges…it is universally applicable to both the grandest and the most basic of all things we ponder.

Knowing that it is wise to seek out and value input by listening to those who’ve succeeded previously is difficult at times, but a quote from Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, articulates this point perfectly. It’s a revealing, relevant neon sign pointing smart leaders, young and seasoned alike, toward this critical mindset. When describing how the leadership at Google operates and makes key decisions from a deeply-rooted cultural basis, Eric said:

“We run this company on questions, not answers.”
– Eric Schmidt, CEO Google –

Knowing that we don’t have all the answers is essential, but understanding that we aren’t supposed to know all the answers simply because of title, rank or position can catapult us toward developing into being far more competent and certainly more confident in leadership roles. This comprehension is indispensable, and it moreover liberates us. It effectively relieves the pressure on us once when we recognize that the role is best played through the nuance of guiding our team to breakthroughs and discovery, not driving it from behind even when we are unsure, because we believe that is what a leader is “supposed to be doing” for our team. Through leveraging the power of multiple people’s experiences, their intelligence and smart lines of questioning, we help to cultivate and develop stronger leaders around us and a more diverse internal “think tank” if you will.

Socrates employed this philosophy when teaching his students, as well as when wrestling to understand or solve a problem. The entire foundation of The Socratic Method is based on education through a dialogue involving multiple people and discussion surrounding lines of questioning, discussion and debate in pursuit of truth and/or resolution.

“I know that I know nothing.”
– Socrates –

With this in mind, it is essential to employ a more enriched understanding of the manifold power of the network that exists beyond your own personal network. It is imperative to get to know your network’s network. Each of us has a network funnel that consists of an ever expanding collection of contact rings that grows as our connections grow outward from us. When we understand and engage this invaluable asset, it can simultaneously cause our own influence to expand and become more valued and sought after. We can help others, and ourselves in the process, to expose our social, business and financial experience and beliefs to other people of influence causing a ripple effect that returns to us as it literally reverberates and bounces off our network providing us a two-way flow of knowledge.

There is, however, a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, caveat…We must bring value and openness to sharing with us into this process. There exists a Universal Law that guides this philosophy, and that is that we must represent value in the form of “over-delivery”, meaning that we must be generous and thoughtful in our contribution to the process of sharing throughout our network and our network’s network. If we are perceived as “needy” or a “taker” our network responds by stealthily excluding us from participation in a manner representative of the “How to Boil A Frog” methodology. Very often, we don’t see it, or perhaps more effectively put, we don’t feel it…until it is already happened.

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