I used to think leadership was about having the best ideas. It’s why I went to graduate school. I needed to be the expert, so I studied to be the best one I could be.

The problem, however, is the world changes… quickly! We all know this to be true, but in case you need a quick reminder, ask yourself this question: when was the last time you looked at notes you took from a class, college course, or graduate school cohort? It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Great ideas can easily shift to outdated concepts in no time at all. Becoming an expert is challenging. Staying an expert is even more daunting.

The Key to Open-Handed Leadership

Leadership, however, is not about having a monopoly on great ideas. You don’t even need to be the foremost expert in your field to have a powerful impact (thank goodness!). But, the best leaders do have a knack for finding and implementing the latest and greatest ideas. They don’t always produce them. But, they know when they see one, and they’re willing to give it a try, even when (and especially when) it’s not their own.

That’s a challenging way to think. I like to have the best idea in the room. And, when an idea of mine has become part of our strategy, I like it to stay there. It’s my baby – and you better not hurt or attack my precious creation. It’s a defense mechanism, and it’s also a dangerous mindset that limits our ability to lead.

In a quickly changing world, leaders who have lasting impact understand the importance of adaptability. And, they have the humility to be open to change, even when it hits close to home. I’ve had the privilege of learning from mentors who modeled true leadership to me. They were all open to the following:

Someone with “No Idea” May Have a Great Idea

Creativity and innovative thinking often come from unexpected and unbound sources. Great leaders don’t limit their interactions to those from the same field, the boardroom, or a corner suite. They know a revolutionary concept could come from a member of the cleaning crew, an administrative assistant, a spouse, a “guy on the street,” or anywhere else. Open-handed leaders value people from all backgrounds and look for great ideas, wherever they may come.

Something That Once was Right Could Now be Wrong

As we’ve already discussed, we live in a changing world, which means great ideas don’t always stay that way. Blockbuster Video was great… until it wasn’t. Palm Pilots and Blackberries were revolutionary until they weren’t. Mullet hairstyles were… well, actually mullets were never a great idea.

Many of us came up with a great idea that we hang our hat on. The hard reality is that idea has a shelf life. If we want our leadership to outlast that idea, we need to be open to it going out-of-date or becoming obsolete, and probably sooner than we would think or like.

You could also word it this way:

Somewhere Along the Line Things Changed, and I Might Have No Clue

New trends, different generations and generational preferences, and changing dynamics impact all of our fields.

Open-handed leaders understand their limited perspective. No one can know everything. New trends, different generations and generational preferences, and changing dynamics impact all of our fields.

The best leaders I know aren’t always the hippest or the most cutting edge. Some are, but many aren’t. And, today’s hip becomes tomorrow’s lame pretty fast. Open-handed leaders understand they are quite possibly clueless about the changes happening all around them. They even tend to have a sense of humor about how out of style they are. That mentality helps them listen with humility instead of defensiveness. And, they are open to learning and trying something new.

How open-handed of a leader are you? Long-lasting leadership doesn’t require expertise. However, it almost always necessitates adaptability, which demands humility.

Featured Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash
Photo by Dev Benjamin on Unsplash
What if leadership isn't just about having the best ideas? The idea of open-handed leadership means leaders must value more than just expertise.