One of the more concerning dynamics of the “everything is on the record all the time” world is that changing your mind – especially in a highly public way – has become SIN NUMBER ONE.
If a politician or business leader evolves in their understanding of a topic, we call them a flip flopper. If someone alters their once-fierce perspective in light of newfound information, we call them a hypocrite or a traitor.
However, one of the most crucial roles of the leader is to be a learner, and it is impossible to learn without being shaped and changed in some way. To be shaped, you have to open yourself to the idea that you don’t know everything, and that your present ideas could be incorrect, or at least incomplete.
I would even go so far as to say that if you’ve not changed your mind about something in the past few years, you may be less than intellectually honest or lacking curiosity. Fossilizing around your hypotheses is a lazy way to approach life and work, and in the end it will result in a compromised body of work.
I have changed my mind about a lot of things over the past decade, and my thinking is currently evolving on many others. This isn’t because I’m abandoning who I am, it’s because I’m trying to be unafraid to be wrong.
The fear of being wrong prevents many people from seeking the truth, in any sphere. We equate our ideas and positions with our worth as a human being, and when our ideas are challenged it feels like a personal attack.
Leaders, I ask you: are you allowing your ideas to evolve over time? Are you willing to adapt as your thoughts are proven incomplete or inadequate?
Don’t allow ego to rob you of your contribution. Stay flexible, stay curious, and be intellectually honest. These are the traits of an effective leader.