“True wisdom is knowing what you do not know.”

The last two reflections have focused on leaders in football; Pete Carroll and John Robinson. I had planned to do this week’s reflection on Coach Robinson’s close friend and mentor, John Madden, but having received complaints already about too much football focus (and the season has just started), I will move on. Before I do so, I will share with you this photo taken from the broadcast booth in the old Cowboys Stadium, this was from the last Sunday Night Football broadcast from that stadium.


This week’s topic is one of my favorites and in doing some research, it appears early credit can be given to Confucius who wrote:  “True wisdom is knowing what you do not know.”

Over the years, I have been most fortunate to have worked for many great leaders and managers as well as consulted with some great companies.  I have seen that great leaders know what they do not know.  It is one of the key ingredients to managerial success.  Credibility and respect comes to those who admit what they do not know.  More than ever, in today’s complex information rich environment, specialization is more important in a number of areas so it simply is not possible to have great depth and breadth.  It is, as we know, the smart leader who surrounds himself or herself with people more talented than he or she; however, this necessitates an understanding and appreciation of personal weakness and gaps that need to be compensated and reinforced.

The good news is that with a variety of analytical tools and assessments such as 360 degree reviews, there is very little excuse for not understanding what you do not know.