Leadership: What We Don’t Know We Don’t Know

Posted on 21. May, 2013 by in Lead From Within, Leadership, Leadership Development, Life Balance, Life Skills, Personal Development, Self Help, Teachable, Trust, Workplace

Screen shot 2013-05-11 at 4.21.00 PMI believe that learning is stronger than knowledge, that perception is more potent than reality, that vision is more powerful than actuality.

I see learning taking place at three separate levels:

What we know we know.

What we know we don’t know.

What we don’t know we don’t know.

These three levels of learning, in our leadership fit together to create knowledge, perception, and vision.

Level One: What we know we know
You know you can lead with process and procedures and do a great job. You’re empowered and confident, and all that’s left is to fill in a few gaps here and there.

Level Two: What we know we don’t know
You don’t know how to connect beyond a certain point. You know you’re missing something, and you know it hinders you from being effective. You have some work to do to get where you want to be, but you can define the problem and identify the resources you need to solve it.

Level Three: What we don’t know we don’t know
You’re stuck. You know you need to move beyond what you’ve always done, but you’re clueless, and the only way out is through uncharted waters.

Learning and growth occur at all three levels, but the best leadership growth occurs when we break open Level Three, what we don’t know we don’t know.

As leaders, we struggle with the same challenges, frustrations, doubts, and setbacks as everyone else. But it’s important that we seek out opportunities and circumstances that guide us toward new vision and new realities.

At these times, we are called to experience beyond what we know. That’s why our willingness to be present in all levels are so important.

Commitment: Make a conscious commitment to be open.

Trust:  Trust that you are heading in the direction of new knowledge.

Curiosity: Allow yourself to experience the curiosity of not knowing.

Freedom: Consent to the freedom of  experience something new and unexpected.

As leaders, we need to have patience with ourselves and live with the idea thatWhat we don’t know we don’t know”

 

Maybe if we learned what we need to know today. We might not understand its meaning. So acknowledge What we don’t know we don’t know.

Because maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but rest assured when the time is right for us to know, we will know.

Lead From Within: As heart-based leaders we need to let go of the expectation that life shows up a certain way, within the boundaries of what we already know. Take it as it comes – in hours, moments, years, in the known and especially in the unknown – and learn from it as much as you can.

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42 Responses to “Leadership: What We Don’t Know We Don’t Know”

  1. Martina

    21. May, 2013

    Interesting post Lolly. One of the most significant phrases that many people have trouble with saying is, “I don’t know.” Refusing to say this and acknowledge this as a fact of our lives tends to come from a place of fear rather than authenticity and vulnerability. Leaders who worry about looking dumb, end up looking foolish instead, when it is revealed that they actually do not know.

    One of the most important jobs of a leader is to lift people up and have them apply themselves to the areas that they do and know best. Leaders often feel compelled to act as if they are the local expert on every aspect of their work. While it is important to know something about every facet, you cannot possibly know it all in detail.

    In order to be a leader, there must be people to lead. Let you team members shine through in what they do best. And take every opportunity to continue to learn from those who do know.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. May, 2013

      Martina,
      I really like your sentiments of In order to be a leader, there must be people to lead. Let you team members shine through in what they do best. And take every opportunity to continue to learn from those who do know.

      Thanks for sharing.
      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
      • Debra

        25. May, 2013

        As a leader in a newly created role and in a new school, I find myself saying something similar: I don’t know what I don’t know. While I would love to be at Level One and this would be a very comfortable place to be, realistically I’m at Level Three! Upon reflection though, for me to continue to learn about being an effective leader, I know this is where I have to start. I like the idea of trust and curiosity. New knowledge is important for all, not only our students and I have given myself permission to be curious and that not knowing is OK. An interesting read. Thanks.

        Reply to this comment
  2. Olakunle

    21. May, 2013

    Nice write up. Will try to revisit for updates. Thanks.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Dougie Cameron

    21. May, 2013

    Thanks for another brilliant post Dolly. It reminds me of my favourite poem….

    He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool; shun him.
    He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a child; teach him.
    He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep; wake him.
    He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man; follow him

    Reply to this comment
  4. Andrea Henning

    21. May, 2013

    This is also the place we are vulnerable and birthplace of “the new”. If we share from there we generate new creative answers to anything that we are facing.
    First we have to admit: there are things we don’t know that we don’t know!

    Thank you Lolly!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Panteli Tritchew

    21. May, 2013

    Thoughtful post, Lolly, and a good reminder to remain open to the uncharted in order to evolve as leaders. Panteli

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      21. May, 2013

      Panteli,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Yes we need to remain open to what we don’t know. That we will need to know.

      Reply to this comment
  6. Dorothy Dalton

    21. May, 2013

    Lolly – made me think – twice! Then I got it!

    Reply to this comment
  7. lollydaskal

    21. May, 2013

    Dororthy what we don’t know we don’t know but we know when we need to know it.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Wayne McEvilly

    21. May, 2013

    Lolly:
    This post bears deep thought and further contemplation for its larger dimensions to show forth. Some reflections from the surface of my brainbox, however, follow:
    In the matter of “What we don’t know we don’t know.” I perceive the doorway beyond which lies the undiscovered terrain of our future adventures and enlightenments, so it would seem imperative that we unburden ourselves of this unknowing, and come to know, realize, and act upon that we know that we know not. That’d be a step “in the right direction.” As long as this area of our life remains shrouded, we are apt to act in leadership positions from the standpoint of false knowledge.
    In any case, this, in some ways enigmatic, post is a real impetus to self-exploration, for which I thank you.
    Wayne

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      22. May, 2013

      As always Wayne,

      Your contemplation is always welcomed.

      What we don’t know we don’t know.” is a doorway- it is a opening of the undiscovered.

      How exciting is that?

      Wonderment.

      Miracles.

      Reply to this comment
  9. Phil

    21. May, 2013

    A great blog Lolly! Leaders need to be comfortable about being uncomfortable when they don’t know what they need to do or what direction to head in.
    Being a leader with a learning attitude, and modelling this for your team, is vital. I would in fact add the word learning to each of you dot points as I see this as the underpinning principle to steering your way through the unknown.
    Commitment to learning
    Trust in learning
    Curiosity to learn
    Freedom to learn

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      22. May, 2013

      Truth Phil,

      Trust, Curiosity, Freedom, Commitment to move towards learning- by exploring and wonderment of something we dont even know.

      Reply to this comment
  10. anil khandelwal

    21. May, 2013

    Wow. If only leaders express what they dont know, it will help them to respect those who know. Learning partnerships is essential in this knowledge explosive world.” Know it all” leaders are the risk to system.
    I deeply appreciate your thoughts.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      22. May, 2013

      Anil,

      It is true, as leaders we need to stay open the option of I DONT KNOW WHAT I DONT KNOW if we do, then we can be open to something that we did not even think of ourselves.

      Reply to this comment
  11. Dan

    22. May, 2013

    This reminds me of the Buddhist phrase, “Not knowing is closest to the truth.” Thank you for encouraging us all to find nourishment in the water from a deeper well…

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      22. May, 2013

      Thanks Dan for stopping by..

      You are correct; “Not knowing is closest to the truth”

      and I also believe we need to stay with the questions longer.

      Reply to this comment
  12. Zylo

    22. May, 2013

    Good point. I also like the points in Martina’s response. I think this is one of the reasons that having a go-to groups is so important. Whether that is your board of directors or just a group of people you trust as advisers. Since you can usually identify the first two levels in yourself easily, it helps to have someone identify opportunities for the last two levels. Great post.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      22. May, 2013

      Thanks for stopping by Zylo When it comes to leadership and learning. I believe LEADERSHIP is the end result of all true learning

      Reply to this comment
  13. Suleiman

    22. May, 2013

    Lolly,
    Thanks for this important topic. This is an everyday issue perhaps hourly as the case may be. I was standing with my scientist friend working on some organ bath connected to a computer. I asked a question do you need me? I have no answer but the guy was stuck. Honestly because of openness and committement I went close by to the P. C. I said if I give comment dont say no, because of trust of my idea the solution was there. I got the freedom to move in there the scientist trust me and was open, there comes everything working. The second stage of what we know we dont know applies there.
    Grateful for your uniques idea.

    Reply to this comment
  14. Suzanne Jones

    22. May, 2013

    I personally think this post is a great example of the differences in people. We tend to judge others because they don’t think like us, but they only know what they know and we only know what we know.
    We tend to feel vulnerable (as if it were a bad thing) if we admit we don’t know what we think we know, and get angry at others if they don’t know what we think they should know.
    Long and short, we need to be easy on ourselves and others as we all learn together.

    Reply to this comment
  15. Garren Fagaragan

    22. May, 2013

    What do I wish knew I more about when I started?

    I wish I KNEW…

    that the p PATH of Leadership…Personal Development

    was going to test EVERYTHING I was…

    EMOTIONally.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Will Lindsay (Poshdrew)

    23. May, 2013

    Great Blog. I had someone work for me that used to tell me “I don’t know, what I don’t know, so tell me what I need to know.”

    Reply to this comment
  17. Gary Joseph Dunn

    23. May, 2013

    D.A.S. is Das! Do, Ask, Say! From S. Covey.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Jan Hills

    23. May, 2013

    Very interesting blog. Level three learning often happens when we have insight. That aha moment when new connections are made and new understanding. Neuroscience is beginning to show how insight happens. This animated video explains the science. http://bit.ly/10SDwBW

    Reply to this comment
  19. Carthage

    23. May, 2013

    That fact that I don’t know what I don’t know is one of the things that keeps me excited about life. It allows me to keep an open mind and explore new opportunities.All of which makes learning fun.

    This level of learning provides the biggest opportunity for gains and breakthroughs and to ignore it is to greatly limit your potential.

    Reply to this comment
  20. Karin Hurt

    23. May, 2013

    I’ve beem working with my teams on how to give effective operations reviews. One of the temptations I am encouraging them to resist, is trying to make up explanations for things they just don’t understand. Instead to say, “here are a few theories we are exploing etc.” Nothing makes a review go South more quickly than making stuff up. However, people seem to be so uncomfortable saying, “I don’t know.” I’m going to share your post in this context.

    Reply to this comment
  21. Martin Haworth

    23. May, 2013

    …and for a leader to say, ‘I don’t know, what do you think…’, is pure magic!

    Regards

    Martin

    Reply to this comment
  22. Ted Whetstone

    23. May, 2013

    I may never be fully comfortable navigating the unknown but I find myself there a lot! The best trick (that works for me AND clients) is the word, “Fascinating!” That’s it.

    As long as I can remember to be excited and interested by the new, the surprising, the challenging, I’m OK. “Fascinating!”

    When I forget, that inside voice defaults to: yech, scary, run!

    I’m curious what simple techniques you (all) have found to turn the automaticity of fear into a framing that is instantly empowering. Thx!

    Reply to this comment
  23. Agus Safudi

    23. May, 2013

    “what we don’t know we don’t know”, this is appropriate statement (quote) as the VEHICLE to reach KNOW and UNDERSTAND. Even as a Leader no need to know everything in detail, but just lead the way to reach the purpose.

    Leader is brave to say is ” I don’t know”, it doesn’t mean They know nothing, could be try to dig what subordinate KNOW, respecting the team, and so on.

    Inspiring article Lolly.

    Regards,

    Agus

    Reply to this comment
  24. Marc

    24. May, 2013

    That a wonderful post Lolly! I really appreciate your point of view and think you say right. When will be the next special blog post?

    Reply to this comment
  25. dawoodchishti

    05. Jun, 2013

    Lolly,
    No need to remind, you are unique.

    Reply to this comment
  26. julie

    18. Jun, 2013

    True. That’s why leaders have to be open to admitting they don’t know everything, and can learn from anyone.

    Reply to this comment
  27. Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article! It’s the little
    changes that make the largest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

    Reply to this comment
  28. From the place of “What we don’t know we don’t know”…it brings the opportunity to go deeper, inviting that place beyond the cognitive mind to open. There lies great wisdom.

    Reply to this comment

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