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When Being Wrong is the Smart Move for a Leader

Posted by Brian Spence on Jan 30, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Manager, Career Advice, LeaderHow do you know you're smart? Is it credentials, degrees, experience, intuition? Could it be a perfect academic record, a flawless record of success in business, the charisma to persuade others to adopt your beliefs and behaviors?

According to Jeff Bezos, creator of Amazon and one of the most successful people in the world, "Being really smart is the ability to recognize when you are wrong and correct course, the courage to acknowledge when you have made a mistake and do something about it."

This is the measure of intelligence that Bezos uses when evaluating candidates for positions in his life and organizations.Bezos wants creative thinkers to be sure, but he also wants folks who can reexamine their own beliefs and be open to the possibility that other beliefs, even those contrary to ones under which they have been operating, may be just as valid if not preferable. They can admit they were wrong.

A little humility goes a long way.

Leaders who are incapable of admitting error often lead others into disastrous situations. History is littered with battles lost because of the intractable egos of generals who refused to listen to reason and allowed their own arrogance to rule, (and ruin) the day. The Battle of Little Bighorn comes to mind

Luckily, arrogance in management doesn't lead to loss of life, as General Custer's self-importance did. But the principles of leadership apply to business as well. A leader who digs in his heels because he can't bear to be wrong often incurs devastating costs in profit and personnel.

An intelligent person looks at the data points and draws a conclusion about how to proceed. A truly intelligent person may alter the way to proceed when presented with new data points. The titans of business like Bezos are innovators because they are looking for the hallmark of independent thinking - people who aren't "calcified" in their opinions and have the agility of mind to acknowledge past mistakes and failures. They use these missteps as mile markers toward a better way of operating.

If interested in learning more about this and related topics, visit the Career Advice and Management & Leadership sections of our blog.

 

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