Leaders Don’t Need All the Answers


Clay Scroggins writes that authentic leaders are comfortable letting others know they don’t have all the answers. Maximizing your influence requires that you resist the attraction of false certainty.

We all crave certainty in uncertain times, and leaders are prone to provide that certainty whether they have good reason to do so or not. I’ve sat in meetings with people who pulled numbers out of the air with a finger snap to argue their point. Were their numbers accurate? Not at all. But they wanted to appear certain, because certainty is attractive. If you can exude confidence, people will buy what you say.

In fact, studies have shown that people will follow the person who appears most confident and certain even if the slightest application of common sense would indicate that person has absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Although this phenomenon occurs in many areas of life, it is most common in our politics.

People don’t follow leaders they can’t trust.

But here’s why this brand of leadership is so poisonous. People will follow you while you wing it — for a while. But when your duplicity becomes known, you will lose credibility and sacrifice your integrity. People don’t follow leaders they can’t trust. They may go along with the program out of fear, but you will have lost trust and, with that, any influence you may have had.

Authenticity is more important than certainty.

The alternative is simple, but it’s not easy: authenticity. Authentic leaders are comfortable letting others know they don’t have all the answers. When you become an authentic leader, you give up the need to always be right, to always have the answer to every problem. You are okay with saying, “I don’t know. Let’s figure this out together.” Admitting there are times when you’re uncertain is a mark of humility, and this willingness to be open and honest is what gives you the opportunity to lead. Leaders who admit their uncertainty by facing it and seeking solutions will end up leading others to find answers to their problems. I’d rather a leader who acknowledges his uncertainty and leads someone else to find the right answer that a leader who fakes it and has the wrong answer.

Resisting the attraction of certainty

Being authentic, honest, and humble is not easy. It requires you to embrace vulnerability and self-awareness, qualities some of us are not comfortable showing to others. But vulnerable leaders will earn trust and increase their influence.

Maximizing your influence will mean resisting the attraction of certainty. Some problems require nuance, not certainty, and the danger is that our quest for certainty can lead us to oversimplify a complex problem. When the stakes are high you can’t afford to bludgeon a sensitive issue with your brute certainty.

Taken from How to Lead in a World of Distraction: Four Simple Habits for Turning Down the Noise (Zondervan, 2019) by Clay Scroggins. Used by permission of Zondervan, www.zondervan.com. The book is available at Cokesbury and Amazon.

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About Author

Clay Scroggins

Clay Scroggins is the lead pastor of Buckhead Church, one of the largest campuses of North Point Ministries. His books include How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge, available at Cokesbury and Amazon, and How to Lead in a World of Distraction, also available at Cokesbury and Amazon.

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