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Learning vs. Knowing

“I’m not the Sage on the Stage”. Several of our coaches begin Raise The Bar's Leadership Bootcamp sessions with the above phrase. Why on earth would they say that? Aren’t our coaches supposed to know everything? Isn’t that why they are leading the training session, after all? Many leaders fall into the trap of thinking that a good leader must know everything and have all the answers. But we’re here to tell you that instead of being a knower, there’s much more power in being a learner. When you’re the “knower”:

  • You miss opportunities to hear and learn from your team

  • You quash ideas and opinions from being shared

  • You stifle curiosity, creativity and innovation

  • You feel a tremendous amount of pressure to know everything - which is likely to make you feel nervous or stressed

  • People actually trust you less (see: Pratfall Effect below)

  • You get defensive if someone questions your ideas

When you’re a “learner”:

  • You leverage the talent that works for and with you

  • You cultivate engagement and ownership from those around you

  • You build trust - people believe what you say

  • You uncover problems and create solutions faster - progress is more efficient

  • Your energy and time are freed up from posturing and needing to know everything towards improving your product or business.

  • You learn something!

As researcher and author Brené Brown writes in Dare to Lead, brave leadership is about being here to get it right, not be right. So how can we as leaders promote a learning instead of “knowing” environment?

  • Commit to honesty. Name it when you don’t know something.

  • Honor the process. Name what you need to learn and how you’re going to do that.

  • Reward curiosity and questions from yourself and your team.

  • Embrace failure and all the opportunities it brings - read more in our last newsletter.

It’s not an easy feat. Being willing to admit what we don’t know feels risky…but the rewards are more than worth it.

Instead of being a knower, there’s much more power in being a learner.


“It’s not fear that gets in the way of daring leadership; it’s armor…Having to be the “knower” or always being right is heavy armor. It’s defensiveness, it’s posturing, and, worst of all, it’s a huge driver of bulls**t. It’s also very common - most of us have some degree of knower in us.” Learn more about what Brené Brown and her team have to say in this short article.


Watch this Yale professor in a short YouTube clip as he explains about the Pratfall Effect - the phenomenon that describes how we’re actually more attracted to people who show a little bit of fallibility.


How to Create a Learning Culture Download our latest ebook all about how to begin tactically creating a culture where learning and growth are not only accepted but expected.




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