All knowledge is incomplete. A confident manner implies knowledge but self-confidence is not necessarily related to knowledge. An overly self-confident leader can lead in the wrong direction without having sufficient specific knowledge. Over time, all mistakes improve conditions in the same way that Darwinian evolution improves survival. But too many mistakes mean that the process takes longer to improve conditions.
So, should a leader appear confident that he/she knows all the answers when they cannot possibly be in that position? Is a consultant a Leader? If so, a consultant should admit, at the starting point of an assignment, that he/she does not have all the answers to the situation in hand. However, the consultant should explain that the answers will be derived together. The consultant’s leadership style should be to ask questions of the group, ensuring that all are “on board” and progressing confidently together, enjoying and participating fully in the process. This will deliver answers from discussion and off-line research tasks which build mutual group knowledge and agreement on the issues in hand, their solutions and a plan to implement them.
Coaching and consultancy are not teaching or instructing but about asking probing questions to energise discussions between the client’s team members. Those discussions – carefully steered to a pre-agreed framework by the consultant/coach – lead the client and his team to agree conclusions on the best ways forward to meet their particular business objectives. Previously, pre-pandemic, consultancy/coaching has often been carried out by a series of meetings at the client’s business premises, but COVID-19 now prevents that. A consultancy/coaching plan should be agreed and delivered online using tools such as Zoom or TEAMS. Although we are all becoming familiar with online systems used for complex, remote discussions, it can be taxing and tiring and must be used carefully in planned short and intense bursts, interspaced with “homework”. These off-line exercises between online sessions, asking for feedback from clients by email after pre-agreed time periods, improve the consultancy/coaching and help groups to reach the objectives together.