The Paradox that Great Leaders are Frequently Wrong
Great leaders are bold, and willing to be wrong. Occasional failure is inevitable as a leader.
Hey all! Happy October! I swear it was only yesterday when I was raking leaves and looking forward to spring. And now the leaves are starting to pile up in the yard. Time flies.
A thing I've been thinking about recently. Huberman has a podcast episode on dopamine. From what I've learned on the topic, dopamine drives you not necessarily towards pleasure (because otherwise you'd expect it to continue to function in a long-term relationship), but towards external goals which we imagine will create pleasurable outcomes. This is why the achievement of a goal is rarely as rewarding as the pursuit. Dopamine doesn't reward you for the achievement, it rewards you imagining the achievement.
I hadn't thought about motivation in that way before, but it fits my personal worldview. When reading about FI (financial independence), there is a common argument that you need to retire to something, rather than from something. This is because people imagine that quitting their job will make them happy. In reality, imagining resigning from their job makes people happy. What makes you happy in the long run is the pursuit of exciting and unique things. When you achieve a goal, you really want to have something else lined up.
Anyway, enough rambling. I'm trying to learn Twitter, so follow me there if you'd like. I'm currently reading The Molecule of More (continuing my learning). If you have any questions, reply to this email, or reach out on LinkedIn. If you're not a subscriber, and would like to read the entire article, please consider subscribing!
Today I'll be talking about being wrong, and how that's good for you. No, really, it'll be great.
People regularly overestimate how much value they're adding.
"I was a part of the X important discussion."
"I ensured everyone was on track."
"But Elbert had the bad idea, and I pointed out it wouldn't work."
Consider using the below criteria when you're trying to determine whether you're adding value or not.
"Can I be proven wrong?"
Why is this a useful way of measuring value? Because if the next step is obvious, then anyone can do it.
Anyone can be a part of an important discussion (and add nothing important to it). Anyone can ask people, "Are you on track?" Anyone can recognize an obvious flaw in an idea.
You know what's hard?
Insisting on having a discussion on a topic others think is not necessary.
Disagreeing with someone when they say that their team is on track.
Proposing a different idea when you think someone's idea won't work.
You can be wrong about these. People will disagree with you. You might look foolish.
That's where true value is created. I'm going to elaborate on a few categories of creating value in situations where you might be wrong.
Do the unpopular thing
It's easy to follow the crowd. It is personally risky to not do the popular thing. Yet, you don't need a leader to follow the crowd. You need a leader to step up and say, "I know you many of you disagree with this, but we're going to do it anyway."
We had a software product heading towards launch. Our team was fully engaged getting the last bugs fixed before the launch date. Our VP asked for a demo.
We walked him through the demo. He asked some questions about the bugs, about the features, and about the UI. He asked how we felt about the launch.
We felt good. We knew the bugs would be fixed before it launched, and while the UI wasn't perfect, it was certainly good enough to be given to customers. He thought about it a bit, and said we should hold the launch a few weeks until we improved the product a bit more.
I have to admit that we were stunned and upset. We'd been driving towards that date for months. We were thrilled that we were going to launch on time. It'd been a considerable effort, and we were finally convinced that we were going to make it. And with one statement, he told our whole department to take a step back for weeks.
In the end, was he right? I think so. The bug fixes had time to bake. Our UI was tweaked to be a bit better. In general, it was a better launch because we weren't rushed. It was an unpopular decision, but it was the right decision.
It's easy and tempting to say, "I trust all of you, sounds good." It's much harder to say, "I understand what you're saying, but I disagree."