- Historically, the measure of a good leader has been unwavering belief in their own decisions and ideas
- Disruption in business calls for a leader who knows they could be wrong – and probably are
- This mindset fosters innovation and boosts creativity and productivity – as well as your bottom line.
History shows that we tend to choose political and business leaders who are stoic, predictable, and unflinching, says Shane Snow, author of Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart.
However, experts have shown that the leadership needed today is quite the opposite. It’s characterised by creativity and flexibility, something a lot of leaders lack, in favour of always being right.
Jason Baehr, author and professor at Loyola Marymount University defines open-mindedness as:
“The characteristic of being willing and within limits able to transcend a default cognitive standpoint in order to take up seriously the merits of a distinct cognitive standpoint.”
The big idea: You can’t be right about everything
“Changing our methods and minds is hard, but it’s important in an era where threats of disruption are always on the horizon,” says Snow. “In popular culture, we might call this kind of cognitive flexibility, ‘open-mindedness.’”
Snow gives the example of former US president Benjamin Franklin, who knew he was smart, would open with something along the lines of, ‘I could be wrong, but…’ whenever he was about to make an argument. He understood the concept of intellectual humility – that he couldn’t be right about everything.
Not only did opening a discussion with these words make it easier to handle and understand an opposing point of view, but it helped Franklin psychologically prime himself to be open to new ideas.
What’s in it for you: You’re not getting in the way of innovation
“A leader who gets stuck in the old hierarchical leadership style of command and control will more than likely be irrelevant in today’s marketplace of flexi-time, Millennials, outsourcing, transparency, and Emotional Intelligence,” says Joe Contrera, founder and President of leadership development company ALIVE @ WORK.
You can be intellectually humble, or open to changing your mind, but you need to remain curious enough to listen to and consider other viewpoints.
However, it’s not as easy as it sounds, says Bill Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company and author of Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways. ”Especially for leaders who have spent years at the same company, or in the same industry, or as part of the same discipline,” he explains.
“Without ever intending it, experienced leaders often allow what they know to limit what they can imagine going forward; their knowledge can actually get in the way of innovation.”
Make it happen
You don’t know what you don’t know, so always be open to learning from others and sometimes being wrong so you can drive your outlook and decisions in the right direction. Here are 3 ways to help you get started:
1.Deflate your intellectual confidence.Ben Franklin demonstrated at least one hack we can all use right away, because he wanted to learn and grow, he used the trick of saying, ‘I could be wrong, but…’ to force himself to be open to changing his mind,” says Snow.
2. Go with someone else’s plan, advises Dan Rockwell, founder of Leadership Freak. “Complex problems have more than one solution.”
3. Include those you exclude. If the same people are attending the same meetings, your business is close-minded and your head is in the sand, says Rockwell.