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The Vulnerability of Saying "I Don't Know"


I was recently on a call brainstorming ways to integrate adaptive leadership lessons among a cohort of leaders. A key grounding in this work is to accept that you do not have all the answers, nor can fix the problem alone. As our discussion deepened, we got to talking about vulnerability among leaders of color and the challenges we face when we don't always have the answer. One of my colleagues referenced a recent article, "How to Say 'I Don't Know' With Grace and Authority-A leadership Lesson From Ta-Nehisi Coates".


Coates, in a room full of people, owns up to the fact that he does not know everything. I loved when he said, "You are well-researched and knowledgeable about one thing that you’ve been thinking about a long time and you’ve been reading about a long time. That does not make you well-researched and knowledgeable about all things."


In our work, leaders are often put in positions to think they need to know-or act like they know-everything. That is simply not possible. The sooner this is embraced, the sooner we can embrace and accept that the work of leadership belongs to everyone.


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