What Does It Mean to be a Learner Instead of a Knower?

How many times a day do you say, “I know” even when you don’t?  If you grew up in a family or worked in an organization that valued knowledge over curiosity, you learned the importance of being right.  Needing to know everything can be a heavy burden.

Armored Leadership

In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown explains that being a knower and being right is a form of armored leadership that may be driven by shame.  This shows up in organizations when only certain people are valued as knowers so others don’t speak up because they’re not “senior enough” or it’s “not their place.”

Daring Leadership

The antidote to armored leadership is daring leadership.  The Courage to Not Know suggests three strategies to transform always knowing into always learning:

  1. Name the issue with a conversation like this: “I’d like you to work on your curiosity and critical thinking skills. You’re often quick with answers, which can be helpful, but not as helpful as having the right questions, which is how you’ll grow as a leader.”
  2. Make learning curiosity skills a priority. Brown points out that some people may need to be taught how to be more curious.
  3. Acknowledge and reward great questions and instances of “I don’t know, but I’d like to find out” as daring leadership behaviors. Encourage and model a shift from wanting to “be right” to wanting to “get it right.”

If you’re a knower or you work with one, I invite you to consider the impact of becoming a learner.  What would be the first step?