The Cost of Trying to Know Everything: Women Entrepreneurs Thrive by Tapping into Their Network of Support

By Ann Elliott

Strategically placed colorful pawns

Any leader who believes they must know everything about leading a team or a company, sets themselves up for a bad experience. They also set up their team for failure or lackluster performance. The concept of a leader knowing everything is a flawed idea. First, no one knows everything. Full stop. Even leaders who believe they know everything there is to know about running a company, they do not.

No research that I found says with certainty whether men or women are particularly prey to this notion. It seems equally dispersed. Having to know it all as a leader is an equal opportunity myth.

For example, this way of thinking and behaving causes havoc, bad feelings, resentment, and failure. On a project recently, the self-appointed leader of the community project, was the “commander in chief.” He accepted no ideas from anyone about another way of doing things. In the planning meetings, he often said, “No, this is the way it’s going to be.” The day of the event, which was designed to raise money for a worthwhile cause, the guests were confused, the volunteers were confused, and the vendors were confused. The right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing because the leader refused to release any control to anyone else. He knew what needed to be done and how it needed to be done. Or, so he thought. He had no experience of planning and hosting an event for 300+ people. This was not in his wheelhouse.

What Happens When a Leader Won’t Delegate

The expense of the leader commanding and controlling everything is substantial. It might be successful for a very small endeavor for a short period of time. If growth and prosperity is the end game, putting everything in the hands of one person will not get you there.

1. One person has limited capacity. They will burn out trying to make all the decisions and keep their thumb on all the activities. With fractured attention, they run from one fire to the next just to keep things going.

2. Others on the team, regardless of the size of the team, rely on the leader for all the thinking. Their leadership skills languish. 

3. HIghly motivated people feel disrespected because their talents go unrecognized. Their ideas have no value in the leader centered culture.

4. People leave to find a place where they can contribute. When people are not engaged, the employee turnover rate is high.

Is Asking for Help Sacrificing Your Competency?

It is easy to understand how a leader could adopt this way of believing. If you want to be accepted and taken seriously as a leader, you must be competent. To some this translates to knowing everything. Stated another way it means do not ask for help because this makes you look weak. 

For women operating in a male-dominated space, they frequently have to prove their competence whereas a man is considered competent without proof.

How to Know Enough Without Trying to Know Everything

To establish credibility as a competent leader, create a balance between knowing enough and not trying to know everything:

  • Identify your strengths. What are your core competencies? Develop your skills and knowledge in these areas. You work with ease and flow while improving your performance.
  • Build a strong team. Bring people on board who have complementary skills and expertise to what you have. 
  • Delegate tasks to your team members. This develops them as leaders. It frees your time to focus on important things that only you can do. 
  • Create a learning culture in your organization. Be a lifelong learner. Encourage your team to learn new things not only professionally but personally.
  • Ask for help when you need it. Reach out to your team, your mentor, or your network. Don’t allow pride to sabotage you.
  • Develop a network of support. Create this not only in your industry but outside as well. Leaders in totally different industries offer valuable insights to your opportunities.

An Example of Peer Support for Highly Successful Women Executives

A great example of competent leaders relying on a network to provide support is the Women Presidents Organization. Established in 1997, the organization provides peer learning to its members across the globe. Members in diverse industries come together in a round table each month to support each other in growing their companies and addressing challenges. 82% of the members credit their WPO membership in helping them manage business concerns. Women running multi-million dollar companies understand the power of reaching out for help and giving it in return.

The Final Word

To lead effectively, executives need to have a strong understanding of their business and industry. However, there is no need to know everything when you have a strong team to support you. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness. It demonstrates trust in people you have hired to help you succeed.

Trying to know everything creates a disadvantage for executives because it leads to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Making decisions becomes more difficult.

Know what information you need to make a good decision and where to find the information. Rely on your team members to do their jobs and help you solve problems.

Freed from the notion that you need to know everything, you increase your level of performance, enjoy your work, and improve relationships.

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Ann Elliott

Ann Elliott, founder of The Berkana Company, excels at leadership strategy

An expert at helping business leaders enjoy more profits and improved productivity with less stress, she blends fun and excitement with executive coaching and training to yield results for her clients.

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