“I love to doubt as well as know.” – Dante Alighieri
One of the ideas we get in our heads as leaders is that we have to have answers. People come to us with problems and we feel like we’re supposed to solve them. Somebody stops in your office with a question, you’re supposed to have an answer.
That need to have answers goes beyond direct requests from people in our organization. As leaders, we think about strategic issues, market trends, competitors, etc., and we see all these problems that have to be solved. And we have a tendency to think that we’re supposed to be the ones solving all of them.
For starters, that’s impossible. No one individual can possibly have all the answers. Hopefully you recognize that and surround yourself with people who have some of the answers that you don’t. A team that complements a leaders’ strengths is one of the biggest assets that leader can have.
Beyond that, though, we need to think differently about answers. The reality is that, in many situations, there aren’t really any clearly defined answers. The only way someone can “find the answer” is if they could see into the future. So many things are rapidly changing all the time that sometimes it’s hard to even define what the problem is.
So do the best you can to analyze a situation, figure out the best solution you can, and then go with it. Don’t sit there trying to come up with the perfect answer, or the answer that takes into account every uncertainty. It’s not possible.
Don’t view answers as “final”. All answers are temporary, and when the situation changes, so will the answers. Learn to be OK with not having the answers, or having answers and then having to pivot to something else later. It’s not a mark against you as a leader if your initial though doesn’t turn out to be a permanent solution. It’s only a mark against you if you’re too stubborn to recognize that you need to change.
Be comfortable with doubt. Be comfortable with change. Be comfortable with the idea that you don’t have all the answers and never will. Then dive in and get to work.