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Leadership Trait: Knowledge

I wont say Knowledge is unimportant as a Leadership Trait.  I will say Knowledge is over rated as a Leadership Trait.  If you’re hired in as a consultant, then Knowledge is crucial to your job, because a leader is eventually going to call you for consultation.  In a leadership position, interpersonal skills are more impotent.

In a leadership position, your knowledge base needs to be more general.  You need to know intimately the who, when, where, why, and how of your mission.  It’s good to know exactly how to construct a widget, but if you don’t know exactly how you can always ask someone.

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Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison, one of the most prolific and effective inventors in history, lacked a formal education … except for three months worth.   The story goes that Edison became embroiled in a law suit over his own competency, despite his achievements.  To prove a point, the attorney for the opposition put Edison on the stand, and asked him to describe how he would go about determining the volume inside one of his new fangled light bulbs.

“Well,” Edison said, “I’d probably make a hole in the top, fill it with water, then measure how much water it held.”

That wasn’t good enough for the lawyer.  That lawyer hounded Edison to give him the mathematical equation appropriate for determining the volume of light bulbs.  The conduct of questioning frustrated Edison … which was the lawyers objective.  The response Edison gave the lawyer is historic:

If I had to know the formula, I’d hire someone to tell me.

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Harry Truman

Folk lore tells us that there is an expletive lurking around in there somewhere, though I doubt  Edison would hazard himself with contempt of court.

Harry Truman was Franklin Roosevelts Vice President for political, rather than practical reasons.  There seemed to be some doubt as to his abilities when he took over the Oval Office.  His reply to nay sayers was this:

It’s like magic.  If I don’t know the answer to a question, I push this little button on my desk, and suddenly there appears some expert who can give it to me.

What I’d like to leave you with from this module is this rule of thumb, either know the answer or know where to find the answer quickly.

Till next time, develop those interpersonal skills, because you are fantastic.

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