16 And don’t think you know it all!

…or act like you know it all. I remember working at Pace Warehouse when I was in college. There was one area of the store that I devoutly avoided. If a customer asked about it, I would try to find someone else to answer their questions or pretend I never heard them and walk away: Tires. I knew nothing about tires, and customers could tell I knew nothing about tires. That’s when a veteran employee — aged 25 or so — took me under his wing and explained that customers don’t like it when you don’t have answers for them. It’s all in the delivery; you have to speak with confidence.

Even worse than acting with confidence you have no right to have is thinking you know everything when you don’t. Ambition and self-confidence grow from the same stock. Both are good, but easily abused. Many young leaders think they have the skills and ideas to solve the world’s problems right now, and perhaps they do, but they lack opportunity and credibility.

Let me offer some perspective from Bob Creson, Wycliffe USA’s president:

It’s hard to say this (as an older leader to younger leaders) but there really is no substitute for experience.  And, often it takes one or two very difficult experiences to form the foundation of a leader’s future success.  My father-in-law likes to say, “Education is expensive.”  He’s not talking about formal education but rather the hard knocks required learning the lessons of leadership (and life, for that matter).  I can point to several of these in my own experience (both inside and outside of Wycliffe) that continue to shape my approach to leadership to this day.

It goes back to your attitude. Do you approach life, colleagues, reports, kids and clients like you know it all? Or like a learner always willing to have your views challenged with a new perspective? The question I have to ask myself again is, “Are you more interested in being discovered or in being developed?

As we start a new year, and I wrap up my series on Romans 12, let’s agree to approach 2010 as learners. There’s always more room to grow in our leadership abilities.