January 20, 2021

Is ignorance really a useful skill for a leader?

Are You Ready To Make faster progress towards your priority goals?

Connect With Me Today And Let’s Explore How I Can Help You

I’m very EXCITED today because I’ve found a highly skilled and experienced  NEW MARKETING VOLUNTEER to welcome on board the Youth Concern team! I am certain she will support us to achieve our strategic and operational goals for the coming year.

Whilst sharing her professional experiences and approaches with me in her interview this morning in Costa, my prospective marketing volunteer stated that one of the skills she could offer Youth Concern was her ability to,

” admit when she can’t do something or when she doesn’t know something.”

“Refreshing”, I thought. Isn’t it great when we don’t have to pretend we know it all? Isn’t good leadership more about recognising and optimising the cumulative skills of the team rather than trying to do everything oneself?

But it’s all too easy to assume an external expectation that,  as a leader or manager, we should know it all!  That we should have all the skills, not only to run the show. but all the projects and departments therein. In other words to expect ourselves to be the expert on everything. Well I don’t know about you but that certainly isn’t the case for me!

Having said that, I do have a dear friend who is almost an expert on everything…really…(I affectionately call her “Wikipedia”!) But for most of us mere mortals, this is  an unachievable, unhealthy, purely internal expectation that we can put upon ourselves.

And it can cause us a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure and reduces one’s effectiveness.

So this is where my Socrates quote comes into its own:

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

Ok, I’m not being totally literal here but it is so important to recognise our own limitations alongside our areas of strength. Let’s identify the areas where we are not the best person for the job, project etc.

So for me, I know damn well that I am not a marketing guru or a social media whizz (yet!) and am by no means a queen of finances (though I’m learning slowly). And yet these are essential skills to ensure the smooth running of all the various cogs of our charity.

A picture containing drawing

Description automatically generated

So what can we do to help the situation? Well, here are the important steps I have learnt on my journey so far as CEO: 

a) Don’t be afraid to admit when you DON’T know something or CAN’T do something!

b) Reassure yourself that you’re NOT expected to be an expert at everything!

c) Try to identify someone, internally or externally, who COULD do the job better than you can.

d) Don’t be afraid to ASK FOR HELP where necessary (delegate internally or enlist expert volunteer skills, for example)

I can vouch for the fact that it’s a very liberating process. I feel unburdened by being able to find yet another valuable volunteer with the expertise to help Youth Concern achieve its mission and goals and take on the projects that I’m struggling with. I no longer have the uncomfortable feeling and knowledge that I’m not progressing those projects faster and more effectively.

I know it’s sometimes difficult, especially amongst small teams such as mine, to find people to delegate to or to share even more of the workload with. But at Youth Concern, we’ve recently found that we can be a little more creative and look further afield for the right help. Here are some of the steps we’ve taken to enlist the help of experts when we need their skills:

1)applied for a scholarship place on Dr Sam Collins’ Aspire Foundation M.A.D Global Leadership Conference with six months of free business mentoring

2) applied for volunteer expertise through Bucks County Council New Futures Fund, supported by Community Impact Bucks

3)enlisted the support of a freelance fundraising consultant to spread the reach of our funding bid efforts (using non-ring-fenced revenue from hiring out our venue)

4)applied for funding through the Big Lottery’s Awards for All programme to hire a freelance consultant to undertake some research about Youth Concern’s outcomes for young people and ways of developing our outcomes monitoring tools

5)applied for a government statistician to do a placement with us

6)conducted a skills analysis of our trustee board and look for trustees whose skills match the organisation’s skills gaps

The fantastic news is that we’ve been successful in our applications for all of the above resources!

In 2016 we will all be working towards one vision “to transform the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged young people. ” 

I am confident that every time we bring in fresh skills and expertise, because I know I’m not the best person for the job, then we will be taking one step closer to achieving that vision!


A close up of a tree

Description automatically generated

As Helen Keller once said “Alone we can do so little but together we can do so much”

Read & Learn More

More From The Blog

Inspirational content to help you shift your life into the path of success