In a workshop I was sitting in on this past week, the facilitator stated that one of the biggest goals for leaders is to access their ignorance in their work.
I took some time to think about that comment, and I discovered how truthful it was.
We often think of ignorance as a bad thing. If others are ignorant, we automatically assume that they can’t, or won’t, further themselves in a certain area.
But that is inappropriate thinking. Because, ignorance, when we recognize it, and value it, can make us better learners and leaders.
Here’s how I can address this in my own work: First, there is nothing wrong with being ignorant about a topic or idea. In fact, it is to be expected, and should be valued. Ignorance shows us that we don’t know everything there is to know, which is much better than believing that we know it all.
Second, I can itemize my ignorance. What do I know the least about? What are some of the areas that have tended to confuse me in the past? What do I think I know, but need some help to determine whether I do, in fact, get it? I can write these down and save them somewhere safe. It’s entirely appropriate to have an ignorance list (as long as it is a reflection on my own growth needs).
Third, seek out help. I can find those whose knowledge base can support my areas of ignorance. I should listen when they speak, and adjust my practice to fill in the holes that may be present due to my lack of understanding.
Fourth, I can publicize my ignorance. I can make it clear that I don’t know all, and that I expect others to feel the same way. Rather, I can paint the picture that it is all about continued growth. We should always expect to know less about some ideas than others.
Finally, keep growing. For continued growth is the only way to change our practice for the better over a lifetime.