Know It All Approach Does Not Make Effective Leadership

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The depiction of a leader as someone who possesses the sharpest IQ and all the wisdom for the rest of mankind has never been a successful formula. This approach to leadership creates a psychological chasm between the leader and those he or she is supposed to lead.

It erodes trust when the leader believes that he or she is the only one with innovation and critical thinking.  

An all-knowing leader will always find it difficult to solicit input from others. Such leaders do not admit their shortcomings because they are preoccupied with protecting their “knower status”.

People want to make a difference and without being given the space to suggest and try new ideas, they start to withdraw. It becomes more of a challenge when the great performers vote with their feet and join the competition.

This is bound to happen because great talent always wants challenging projects and to see results so that they can move to bigger projects.

If a leader stifles that kind of opportunity, they are bound to be left with people who are indifferent to the results of the organisation.

These type of leaders fail to comprehend that their role is to inspire trust.

Each leader should learn from what Stephen Covey said that “The first job of a leader-at work or at home-is to inspire trust. It’s to bring out the best in people by entrusting them with meaningful stewardships, and to create an environment in which high-trust interaction inspires creativity and possibility”  

It starts with the leader

A know-it-all approach seeks validation because the leader does not trust himself or herself. In her book, Dare to Lead, Brené Brown states that “…for many people the need to be a knower is driven by shame and for some even trauma”.  

It is only when a leader accepts feedback and can challenge his or her perspective that a shift can happen.  It takes becoming adaptive by creating and taking new behaviours, relationships and approaches that change can start to take place.

Interact with others

Effective leadership will never happen when leading from the comfort of your office, screaming instructions, and criticizing work done by others. This becomes even worse if you do not have an appreciation of the challenges people face daily.  It becomes even more complicated if you cannot communicate a sense of direction to help those you lead to see the vision.

I like Douglas Conant when he said that “Ultimately as a leader, you’re evaluated on how you interact with people. If you do it well, you develop a reputation as effective leader. If you don’t, you develop a reputation for being a highly ineffective leader”.

Interaction does not have to happen only in meetings or in formal settings. I once worked for a leader who was open to being invited to lunch by any person in the organisation. He availed himself for those who are willing to take the opportunity for mentoring. He participated in social events at work without being trapped by his title.  

He maintained a balance as described by Dr Nirvadha Sigh when she said that “a true leader encompasses both EQ (emotional quotient) and IQ (intelligent quotient) where he rules from his head, but leads with his heart”

If you are intrigued by the idea of achieving extraordinary results in your life, I invite you to explore coaching with one of our coaches. Drop us an email on

Tex Hlalele is a Life & Business Coach, Consultant, Speaker and Author of the book Face the person in the mirror. Book Tex for coaching and speaking engagements to help you and your team gain insights and possibilities for individual learning and organizational advancement. Get in touch by sending an email on

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