How Much Do You Know?

The more you learn and the more you increase your knowledge on a certain topic, pay attention to how much you actually don’t know about it. 

Have you ever heard the term “leaders are readers”? When I first heard that, I didn’t think much of it. I just thought it was a given that to be a leader you have to be highly educated, so you must be well read. However, that’s not it at all.

To be a leader, you don’t have to know everything. In fact, when I started my first leadership position I realised just how much I don’t know.

1. How Much Don’t You Know?

So, I began to learn more about leadership. I read books, attended seminars, went to conferences and enrolled in online courses. By doing all of that, I realised even more that I didn’t know a whole lot. It was a bit scary, I must admit.

It’s scary because I keep surprising myself on how much more knowledge I don’t have. Have you had similar experiences? I love learning new things, especially about leadership and personal growth.

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But, it is not a nice feeling to realise how much more I needed to learn than I originally thought. Although, it is good to now know this and be aware that I do not know it all.

It seems to happen with every new thing I learn too. I sometimes find myself laughing that my intelligence is nowhere near what I thought it was.

I get asked quite a lot to “think outside the box” and I’m sure you have too. Or, you have heard others be asked that before. Well, what that means is to think deeper within yourself, and try to draw on information that you may never have thought you had.

Now, obviously nobody can know everything about a certain topic. However, there are aspects of a topic that we don’t really know or understand, but we are aware of them.

2. Thinking Outside The Box

So, being aware of those aspects is actually being “outside of the box”. The question is, how do we get what’s “outside of the box” to “inside of the box”? That’s easy, we need to learn and increase our knowledge about what’s “outside of the box”.

You are probably learning about what’s “outside of the box” right now.

We also need to learn about things that are REALLY “outside of the box”. These are things that we don’t know anything about at all, not a clue. Again, the question is, how do we get what’s REALLY “outside of the box” to “inside of the box”? We need to learn and increase our knowledge about what’s REALLY “outside of the box”.

As I said earlier, there are things we need to know about that are “outside of the box” that we currently don’t know, and it’s good that we are at least aware of that. However, we are continuing to learn and increase our knowledge about what’s “outside of the box” and bringing it “inside of the box”.

This will then leave room to become aware of more things that are “outside of the box”. We don’t know about them, but our awareness of newer and important things has increased.

3. Awareness

So, it becomes a cycle of increased knowledge, awareness, and personal growth. You must make the decision to continue increasing your knowledge or not. If you do, then the cycle will continue and you will constantly grow.

If you do not then the cycle will stop and you will remain where you are. Or, after a period of time your knowledge and growth will decrease. That is a position we don’t want to find ourselves in.

I find it amazing that I now know I need to learn a lot more about things I thought I was quite accomplished in. It makes we wonder about what is actually happening in our brains. We can’t just learn about something once or twice, we need to keep going and growing every day.

I find it funny that the people who usually ask me to “think outside the box” are people who think they know it all. Do you find that? Actually, it is those people who don’t know a lot, sometimes even less than us.

So, they are not aware that they need to also learn a lot more, and because they are not aware, that is what makes them think they know it all. They have an ignorant view on learning and increasing their knowledge. You will find this a lot in poor leaders.

Now that we know that we have a lot more to learn, we need to be very specific and extremely disciplined in what we learn. For example, by reading my articles, books and taking my online courses, you are very specifically learning “How To Be A Highly Effective Leader.

We do not want to be filling our brains with knowledge we do not need at all, or will do more harm than good.

I started my career in 1999 as an apprentice mechanical engineer when I was 16. I was working with a large automotive company in Liverpool in the UK. Their service was to build the assembly lines that made the engines for Ford, Jaguar, Mitsubishi and many other car manufacturers.

The apprenticeship was a mix of hands on engineering, and also theoretical engineering in college. This lasted 4 years until I was a fully qualified mechanical engineer.

Very quickly after gaining my qualifications and completing my apprenticeship, everybody was made redundant from the company which was devastating. After a few years of working and being between jobs, I eventually joined the UK rail industry.

I started working with the Liverpool train operating company as an engineer. My role was to help improve the performance of the trains, and keep them running for as long as possible in service without failing.

Since starting in the UK rail industry I have worked in both England and Scotland, and climbed the leadership ladder up to deputy head of engineering for a train operating company in London.

4. Have You Ever Been Trained To Lead?

For all the leadership positions I held, I was never really trained to lead. I went on a few courses for 2 or 3 days at a time. But, nothing compared to my apprentice or graduate engineering training.

It amazes me that this happens all over the world, in most industries. People are being asked to lead people without any training. You may not have had any training also.

When I was deputy head of engineering I was leading teams who had safety critical, and very technical roles. It was my job to influence the teams to buy into me and into my ideas.

But, how was I going to do that without any real training or knowledge how to? I also needed to change the department and ensure that the teams embraced that change. Again I had to do this without any training on how to either.

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The “leadership training” that I had received up to then was very basic. So, to climb the leadership ladder to deputy head of engineering was a huge feat for me. I was proud of myself, but I knew for a fact I had lots and lots to learn about being a leader at this level.

So, I was reading leadership book after leadership book, and watching leadership videos on You Tube. I was attending seminars and conferences, all off my own back and out of my own pocket.

If I was to become knowledgeable in the area of leadership, I couldn’t afford to wait for companies to give 2 days’ training here or there.  I had to do it for myself.

By reading this article I hope you are of the same mindset, and you are pushing yourself to get the learning and the knowledge of leadership you need. You are going to be doing a lot of “thinking outside of the box”. You will be so far away from the box that you can’t see it. Get yourself ready to bring what’s “outside of the box” to “inside of the box”.

It takes a lot of time and is difficult to learn new things. Keep trying new ways of learning until you find your sweet spot

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

Check out my other articles by Clicking HERE

All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

20 thoughts on “How Much Do You Know?

  1. I also find it frightening sometimes when I realize in an (especially responsible) situation how much I don’t know yet. So I know those feelings. But right after that, I think that no one knows everything and that it depends on us how much we are willing to learn, and I am willing to constantly expand my horizons in different areas of life.
    Your articles are really a real treasure trove of knowledge and information, and when I read them I always get some new insight into the topic of leadership, which is outside my box.
    I am currently self-employed so I don’t have a team to lead, but in the past, I have been a leader in different departments, I have also worked with different leaders. When reading your articles, I often think of certain people who should definitely read your content.
    I wish you all the best
    Nina

    1. Hi Nina,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences in being a manager in the past.

      I couldn’t agree with you more how frightening it is when you learn how much more you need to learn on a topic that you thought you were knowledgeable about. Sometimes, I find it a good thing because it drives my learning even more.

      Keep learning and keep growing as a leader.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. Hey Tom,

    the ability to lead is mainly around mindset and the ability to adapt. Training can help, but I think the people who succeed can read the situation effectively to get the most out of their team. This often comes with experience and sometimes learning from our mistakes too.
    The ability to do a job well doesn’t always guarantee that they will have the ability to step up and lead a team.

    I’ve been a manager for nearly 20 years and there are many changes that have come about that require a good leader to keep on learning on how to become a better leader.

    Anyone looking for help with leadership will find some useful tips in your blog post and that way they can keep themselves up to date with the best solutions going forward too.

    1. Hi John,

      I appreciate your comment.

      Being in a leadership position for 20 years, you must have a lot of experience. It would be great if you could share more of that experience that could help other readers of this article, and maybe they could learn from you just as much as they learn from me.

      Thank you for your kind words at the end of your comment, means the world.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. One of my personal development mentors is Jim Rohn and I learned from him that we should always be reading to grow and develop our minds. A big mistake I see people making is that they stop learning after they have left the traditional school system.

    It is true that the more you find things out through reading, the more you will realize that you do not know a lot of things.

    Even scientists now have come to the conclusion that the more they discover something new in the universe, the more they realize how much they don’t know!

    For me, the key thing is to stay learning each day and pass down knowledge to the next generation while encouraging them to do the same.

    You are making a big difference by sharing this knowledge here, so thank you for that.

    Keep on giving value as usual.

    1. Hi Jason,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Jim Rohn is one of the best personal growth mentors around, and the fact that he mentors you fills me with envy 🙂

      I couldn’t agree with you more, learning is a lifelong journey. It doesn’t stop when you finish school or college, it is a part of every day life and we should be embracing learning. Learning through reading, doing, listening and learning from our own mistakes.

      Keep learning and keep growing.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. I think one of the biggest takeaways from my MBA was that they weren’t teaching us how to manage – rather they were teaching us how to find and apply tools, and use our growing experiences to search out new ways of doing things. Effectively – they were teaching us to continue learning, applying, testing, adjusting and trying it all again!

    Once you embrace that mindset its amazing how you find yourself doing it without even thinking about it!

    I completely agree on the reading and exploring other methods of learning – it can be a strange combination of scary and enviorating at the same time. I particularly enjoy being able to both discuss the new things I’ve learned and apply them at work and see what has happened!

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for your comment.

      It’s great that you share your experiences from your MBA. I think MBA’s and other university degrees need to improve on their leadership development. I did engineering degrees and they never once taught us how to lead people. People are what makes everything in the world tick. If we cannot lead and influence people, then nothing is going to work to it’s full potential.

      Keep learning and keep growing as a leader.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Great article! I met and worked with many leaders who thought they knew all the things. So, they were probably not listening to others and were sometimes arrogant. Apparently, their outcomes were poor and they still didn’t think it may be their fault but their subordinates’ fault. Now, I become a leader and always remind myself to be humble and keep learning new things. Just like what you said, keep learning “outside of the box” because it is impossible to know all the things. This is really a great article to remind all leaders to learn out of the box, keep learning and enlarge their “learning zone”. BTW, I’m going to download your E-book “GROW YOUR MINDSET”. I think it’ll be a good one.

    1. Hi Alex,

      I appreciate your comment. I hope you enjoy reading my E-Book “Grow Your Mindset”, take action on what you learn and share what you learn with others.

      I couldn’t agree with you more that leaders who think they know it all, do not listen to their people. Listening is one of the most important skills of a leader, especially listening to understand a person.

      Keep growing as a leader and keep inspiring your people to become leaders too.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. From an early age children are taught in schools not to think outside the box. Teachers who encourage children to think outside the box need time until this form of thinking takes root. I can’t generalize of course, there are always exceptions, but it has been my impression when I worked in schools.

    Schools form future 9 to 5 adults, and thinking outside the box is not something everyone does. As a leader one must think outside the box. One can’t be a leader and stay within the limits of one’s box.

    It is funny that you mentioned how people who tell others to think outside the box usually don’t do the same. I’ve had that situation a few times; perhaps those people say it to come across as people who think outside the box? Who knows?

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on teachers who encourage children to think outside the box because that’s where it really needs to start. Thinking differently and deeper on things needs to start at an early age.

      Keep thinking outside the box Christine and keep sharing what you learn with others.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. I love your emphasis on having a growth mindset!

    In order to be a highly effective leader, it is important to have a growth mindset. A growth mindset means that you are always learning and growing. You are willing to learn from your mistakes and you are always looking for ways to improve. A growth mindset is important because it allows you to continue to grow and develop as a leader. It also allows you to stay open-minded and flexible. If you have a growth mindset, then you will be able to continue to learn and grow even when things get tough.

    I am particularly interested in Growth Mindsets in Children?

    I like to challenge parents:

    What if you could unlock your child’s potential and help them achieve more than you ever thought possible? According to research, it is possible with growth mindset. Growth mindset is the belief that intelligence and other abilities can be developed through effort and practice.

    Many parents are curious about growth mindset but don’t know where to start. Here are a few key things to keep in mind:

    1. A growth mindset is not about being perfect; it’s about making mistakes and learning from them.

    2. Encourage your child to take on new challenges. Praise their effort, not just their accomplishments.

    3. Help them find role models who demonstrate a growth mindset. Point out how these people have overcome obstacles and learned from their mistakes.

    Can you imagine what great leaders these children would make?

    1. Hi Julia,

      I really appreciate your very detailed and passionate comment.

      I couldn’t agree with you more that we must be teaching our children about personal growth and leadership from an early age. The reason we have so many poor leaders around the world is because they were not taught leadership at the right time in their life. That is not me disrespecting them because I wasn’t taught leadership at the right time either.

      We need to be teaching personal growth and leadership in schools as part of the curriculum, not as a one off.

      I appreciate your views and I hope people can relate to you just as much as they can to me.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi Tom
    I had a situation at work where someone was asked to lead but they had no idea how to do it. So i took it upon myself to help them with what to do and how to do it. What was funny, she asked me how do I know this and if it works. I told her I found it on google and she was amazed. Any way what you are saying is true most organisations actually do not offer proper leadership training and once people find themselves in a leadership position they become arrogant (I know it all sort of mentality) and then actually fail to learn. Thank you for this inspiring to learn and grow article.
    Cheers,
    Angee

    1. Hi Angee,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my post, means the world.

      Well done to you for offering your services to your colleague who needed help with her leadership. Googling leadership development material is where I started in 2009. Organisations are generally rubbish for leadership development, especially the huge organisations.

      Keep up the great work and helping your people with their leadership development.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Hi Tom,

    This post is quite inspiring, and it just made my day. The key is to take the courage and walk out of our comfort zone to do things that we are not familiar with. Just like you mentioned here, the training of being a leader is nothing compared to the training of your apprentice or graduate engineering training, so you educate yourself consistently. I believe self-education plays a very crucial part in this! Thanks a lot for sharing!

    Matt

    1. Hi Matt,

      Thank you for your comment and I’m glad that you found my post inspiring.

      Being out of your comfort zone is the only time you will grow. We never grow when we are in a comfortable state.

      So, keep trying to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, keep growing and showing your people how to do the same.

      All the best,

      Tom

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