Never Say I Don’t Know

Always have an answer, even if you’re stretching. Only a weak leader ever says the words “I don’t know.”

I’ve always been bothered by those leaders who are so weak and insecure about themselves that they manage to say, “I don’t know.” This leadership flaw demeans your status in the eyes of your employees and mocks your experience! (Remember, experience always equals wisdom.)

How can you live with yourself after doing such a thing?! You must be confident in yourself, your words, and your actions at all times, even when the exact details of the correct response evade you at that moment.

I disrespect — no, too soft — I loathe the man who has no pride in himself.

Likewise, I despise the leader who intentionally withholds a tall glass of ice-water to one who is thirsty in a dry land by offering such a vacuous response. How cowardly! How inconsiderate! That person looks up to you as their mentor — an example of what to do — yet you rob them of wisdom with a foolish “I don’t know.”

Have you no respect for yourself, not to mention for the man who depends on you for guidance? Others will sense your ignorance and disrespect you.

Make sure you never do this. Your vast experience and your wealth of wisdom gives you significant grace to explain any concept to the layman and the confidence to teach something you have never done previously. Given your tenure as a boss, you will surely have plenty of knowledge on virtually any topic. (If you’re not already practicing this, we have a big problem. Actually, the mere fact that some of you are hearing this for the first time tells me you’re not ready.)

You should always have something ready to say.

No matter what you say, your blind followers will find it helpful. Always have supreme confidence in yourself and your abilities! Having answers is a trait you cannot purchase, and one that some “honest” businessmen ignore so they can sleep better at night — the fools! You have the upper hand when you claim the victory others admit as defeat.

If you fail to answer your employee this time, will he ever ask you another question next time? Will he not lose all respect for you and your insecurity regarding your knowledge, now realizing that you are even weaker than he previously imagined? Will he ever think higher or better of you for not giving him an answer he requested? How could he?!

Do not fail to answer him for the sake of worthless honesty, knowing that you have powerful words that will give him direction no matter his quest. Underlings look to you for money, food, wisdom, benefits, 401k matching, more wisdom, a place to check their personal email all day long, and their own self-worth determined by job title. Thus, maintaining your fellow lower man is invaluable.

And much more important is maintaining your image.

W. Albert Jameson, IV

On the other hand…
Responding with “I don’t know” exudes honesty. It is no sign of weakness to speak the truth; that has become a rare trait. Build trust by admitting you don’t know everything. No one ever expected you to, anyway!

Is it hard to admit you don’t know about a certain topic? What topic — and why?