The Best Leaders Revel In Being Wrong

“I know the business.” The word, “know”, is the enemy of improvement and innovation. Innovation has many enemies, but experience and groupthink are its biggest. And because people run businesses, every single one of them will fall into the trap.

Unless you’ve made the mistake of hiring below-average people and surrounding yourself with yes men, as a leader, your job isn’t to have all the answers. Your job is to be the biggest thinker in the room, which means asking questions. Questioning is one of the key skills of innovators, and it’s not something that is encouraged in established organizations.

As a leader, you have to model the way. People will not question ideas and decisions if you don’t create an environment where it’s encouraged, celebrated, and rewarded. You have to remember that in most organizations people are celebrated and promoted for being right, not wrong.

But you know what?

This is the wrong approach because the most impactful and effective leaders revel in being wrong. Questions drive insights. The more uncertainty there is, the more questions you should ask. There are no experts of the new and unknown. Having all the answers loses its value the longer the time horizon is; questions become more important the longer the time horizon. Simply put, the best leaders are active questioners.

The world is bigger than what you can see

As a leader, how do you revel in being wrong?

Assume there’s something you’re missing. Assume you might be wrong. Assume you don’t have all the answers because you don’t. You will keep looking at problems from different angles when you revel in being wrong. You accomplish greater things when you suspect there is some better way to get something done or another thing you can do.

To truly revel in being wrong, leaders must adopt a few crucial habits:

  1. Make yourself more conscious of your probable wrongness. Recognize that your knowledge and perspectives are inherently limited. Approach situations with humility and an openness to being corrected. Actively seek out areas where your understanding may be incomplete or flawed, and embrace the opportunity to learn and grow.
  2. Become more receptive to disconfirming evidence and other challenging information they have avoided noticing or taking seriously. Actively listen to opposing viewpoints and contrarian data without defensiveness. Instead of dismissing or rationalizing information that contradicts your beliefs, engage with it critically and objectively. Be willing to change your mind when presented with compelling evidence.
  3. Spend time with people who have different views and data and who actively confront you with the truth you are missing. Surround yourself with diverse perspectives and individuals who are not afraid to challenge your assumptions. Seek out advisors, colleagues, or even critics who can provide you with honest feedback and expose you to alternative viewpoints. Embrace these encounters as opportunities for personal and professional growth.

By embracing these habits, leaders can cultivate an environment where mistakes are seen not as failures but as stepping stones to deeper understanding and innovation. When leaders revel in being wrong, they pave the way for their teams to take risks, learn from mistakes, and collectively achieve greater success.

Remember, being wrong is not a weakness; it’s a strength that allows leaders to continually evolve, adapt, and make better-informed decisions for their organizations and the people they serve.