When I begin working with a new client, one of the first things I do is to interview their stakeholders. This helps my client and me to learn more about their most effective behaviors as well as those that are potential areas for development. After doing many of these over the years, I’ve learned to look for certain things that might signal a developmental need.
Interestingly, there is one strength that is often mentioned that I like to pay attention to; particularly when it is consistently mentioned by stakeholders. Although it is an important one, this strength can cause some problems with the relationships the leader has with peers, direct reports and others.
You might be surprised to learn what this potentially problematic strength is. Are you ready? This wonderful – but often detrimental strength is knowledge. Not wisdom or understanding, but subject and/or technical knowledge.
Do you pride yourself on what you know? Do you constantly let others know how much you know? When you put too much emphasis on your knowledge as a source of influence, the following negative consequences can occur:
Listening stops: When you believe you know all of the right answers, you stop listening to other’s ideas. This stifles creativity, and can be a source for flawed decision making.
Respect declines: Your respect for other’s knowledge and opinions might deteriorate. They feel it, and morale suffers. They may stop respecting you and others around them.
Delegation is absent: Since you know more than others, you might think you are the only one who knows enough to get the work done.
Learning is lacking: Since you aren’t delegating, your direct reports aren’t challenged to do new things. If they aren’t challenged, they aren’t learning and developing.
You’re working too hard: Knowledge can be such a burden. Not only does it require you to keep up with all of the new knowledge, it may keep you from delegating because you are “the only one who knows enough to get the job done”.
Winning is the only option: Compromise or collaboration may be out of the question. Your knowledge reigns supreme, and you know you are always right. Dissention, alternative ideas, or different thinking may not be tolerated.
Promotion is not likely: Your reliance on knowledge may prevent you from developing wisdom, understanding, intuition, respect for others, compromise – all of which are needed to succeed in the upper levels of leadership.
Knowledge is necessary for leading. Over-reliance on your knowledge can be a career derailer. Temper your knowledge with listening for understanding, respecting others’ opinions, delegating and trusting others to get the work done, being open to learning new things, compromising and collaborating. Your leadership abilities will soar!