Core Leadership Practices: The Power of Knowing and the Even Greater Power of Not Knowing

This Fulcrum may come across as somewhat philosophical, but it somehow seems to fit this time of year. The higher end of leadership is constantly challenged with the balance between the tangible and the intangible; the known and the unknown; the profound and the mundane. The ability to handle both usefully is the hallmark of leadership, as is the ability to know when to lead and when to manage.

The Skill of Not Knowing
Knowledge is power. Lack of knowledge may be ignorance. The conscious and deliberate self-induced state of not knowing, however, is our gateway to potentially far greater power. Knowing how to not know is one of the greatest human skills that only the few possess in its more potent form.

The Cradle of Leadership
The cradle of true leadership greatness is a profound not-knowing state. Up to a certain point people progress by and because of what they know. Beyond that illusive point, people elevate to occupy positions of superior self-awareness and moral and intellectual grounds because of what they admit to not knowing. And, by persistently asking, from a deep, genuine inner quest, the questions that need to be asked – that must be asked – for the way forward to be revealed.

The Power of Pointed Enquiry
Amongst the ‘not-knowing’ technologies that are instinctively deployed in our lives is that of sleeping over a problem and letting one’s systems deliver the answer that may already be there but cannot be reached with the conscious mind. It’s as though you say to yourself: “I don’t know right now, now over to the semi-conscious”; left as an open question that the higher intelligence already present in the semi-conscious can then deliver in our absence while we sleep. This inner technology can actually be developed to exciting levels through the practice of training oneself to ask focused questions and then letting those questions float in one’s mind. Language, when deployed in fullness, is a highly conducive media for new insight.

The occupiers of the not-knowing state, those who venture into the unknown realms of the human possibility are blessed with the quality of humility. As they search for clues, they grow in themselves the attitude of a student of life. They know from experience that true leadership is not a set position. The entry attitude into ‘what next?’ being: “Who has it in them today?” This, of course, includes oneself – the seeking happens inwardly and outwardly.

Big Picture Example
Let’s highlight a big example by focusing for a moment on a new, bigger picture emerging reality: There is currently a profound shift in balances between the masculine and feminine vectors in regard to leadership. The future is increasingly entering through the feminine vector, whereas in the past, it was the masculine that was more in the driving seat. This is a new situation for both, a time of transition, needing both to now engage in discovering what it means and how it works, to our greatest benefit.

Handling Ambiguity
One of the hallmarks of these times of great ambiguity is the birth, seemingly out of thin air, of new sets of talents and capabilities, as well as new possibilities: An evolving spiritual tango between individuals and the human opportunity. The deeper the state of conscious not-knowing coupled with a not fixing self-view, the more of the new that can be realized.

Leadership Skills
Knowing how to engage people in intelligent conversations and formulate focused trigger questions is one of the most vital leadership skills, one that bridges between the not-knowing state and its necessary practical outplays. It is time to set oneself free, to explore and discover a whole new world in the making, here and now. Learning to create space for the parts in ourselves and others that we do not yet know; to think about ourselves and others beyond familiarity and judgment invites bigger portions of the future into our affairs. There may be a far greater significance to our individual uniqueness than we may realize. The process of creating new futures reveals why.

The Sidestep
The greater unknown, where the greater truths and answers reside, cannot be accessed from the platform of pressure and stress to perform and deliver in short order. The will-power to take a side-step to create the space that is not subject to the mundane pressures is the way forward here – from developing a business to leading a nation. Life in this day and age is a permanent case of a two-in-one task: Doing what needs to be done for today and what needs to be done for tomorrow and being able to effectively handle their conflicting natures.

Practice saying: “I don’t know” and then formulating natural follow-on questions. Practice asking people what they see and what they think and listen. Practice asking the same question time and again in many different ways. Show yourself that you do not know until you really believe it. Those pivotal moments of fully admitting that we don’t know and asking why are the building blocks of profound wisdom.

Enlightened leaders know how to say “I really don’t know” in a way that empowers those who may know to come forward.

David Gommé
World Copyright 2012© David Gommé

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