A great point to think about as a leader, from Chris Millette:

As a leader, you may believe that you need to have all the answers. This is a myth. By virtue of the position, it’s often lonely at the top, but remember, you are not alone. In fact, when those at the top act as if they have all the answers, it can appear disingenuous, weakening their influence rather than strengthening it. This miscalculation happens when leaders do not differentiate between answers and decisions.

The role of the leader is not to always have the answer, but rather, it’s simply to make the decision. As it’s frequently reported, the best leaders surround themselves with smart people, creating an atmosphere of speaking openly and confidently. In this type of environment, after hearing different ideas and solutions, the leader simply makes the decision. Unfortunately, I’m aware of how common this mistake is because early in my coaching career, I was a frequent offender.

I became a head basketball coach at the college level at the age of 28. At the time I believed I was ready, but, in hindsight, I wasn’t. Like most new leaders, I made my share of errors (like holding everyone accountable for the mistakes of just a few, as you’ll read in a future post Don’t Make Everyone Run.) But, one of my most glaring and dangerous mistakes was believing that I needed to have all the answers.

In my third year, still not truly confident, I decided to change our team’s offense, spending months preparing and researching. As the season approached, I was ready to go. Two people who didn’t know I was ready to go? My assistants. With all the pre-season preparation, meetings and conversations we had, I kept them in the dark. needed to be in charge. needed to be all-knowing, so they were kept out of the loop. On the first day of practice when I introduced the offense to the team, it was also the first time my assistants heard about it. Even writing this now makes me cringe!

What was I worried about? Perhaps they would ask questions I couldn’t answer? Perhaps they would know more than me about the offense? Who knows, but I couldn’t risk it. Not shockingly, things didn’t go well; both with the offense and the season as a whole. My need to have the answers, and the insecurity that surrounds that feeling, underscored the making of a mediocre year.

Five years, and a lot of growth later, I was in my fourth year at Tabor Academy. By this point, I was a much more comfortable and confident coach. Entering the season, I knew two things: 1) we needed to change our defense, 2) my previous leadership approach had failed. So, when it came time to make the change, I was confident enough to listen.

Although I knew which defense would work for us, the reality was I wasn’t totally familiar with it. “No problem,” my assistant told me, “I know that defense very well.” When it came time to introduce the plan to our team, I blew the whistle, gathered everyone, then I walked off the court and let my assistant take over. Certainly, a different approach than my insecure mess five years earlier. My assistant became the master of the defense. This not only empowered him but also allowed me to focus on other things (one of the benefits of not micromanaging I outlined in a previous post https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/work-less-produce-more-chris-millette/). And not surprisingly, we’ve had a good amount of success over the last decade. Amazing what not having all the answers can do!

As a leader, it’s easy to think not having an answer makes you look weak or incompetent. It’s quite the opposite. By empowering those around you and holding on to the decision-making power, you strengthen your role as a leader. Now my assistants and I talk about everything we want to do. They give their thoughts…I merely make the final decision.