"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few"
—S. Suzuki (Japanese Zen priest, ?-1971)
Certainty and effective leadership do not tend to work well together.
One executive's predecessor left him with a piece of parting advice: "Just never show them you’re not sure." Under this predecessor’s watch, the organization not only stagnated, but failed to retain top talent.
So many leaders, particularly young ones, don’t distinguish between confidence and certainty. They see their role as authoritarian, and people working for them tend to remain in doubt. No one has all the answers, and letting go of any need to act like you do allows for discovery of what is truly happening. Unencumbered by the need to be an expert, or be right, you adopt the more open-minded attitude of a beginner.
Invite your people into what you don’t know by asking simple questions and showing greater curiosity. When you work with them to find solutions in this way, you make the most of the talent you have on hand. In short, making a regular practice of asking and listening as would a beginner isn’t weak—it’s smart leadership.