#2 Barrier to Leadership – Being a Know-It-All

By Dr. Mary Kay

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

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Do you have leadership skills? Are you a know-it-all?

I hope so because people that are really good at what they do have a passion for learning and sharing information about what they know.

We, know-it-alls, love to tell others what we just discovered and the latest tip or secret that would make their life easier.

So, what’s wrong with that?

Any Strength Overused becomes a Weakness.

Our intentions are good – but we can get carried away. We can get so caught up in telling “our story” that it comes across to others as talking, talking, and talking.

I don’t mean to be harsh, but in reality, the other person is thinking, “Will they ever shut up?”

Our fascinating story ends up amusing us, but it doesn’t seem to have value for others. Why?

What is a Know-it-All?

According to the employees I have asked, a know-it-all is an individual that does most of the talking.

This turns into a lecture, interrupts people with the answer, jumps in and proposes a better way, and corrects you while you are talking. Not a very desirable leadership skill.

And when you approach the know-it-all about being a know-it-all, they tell you why they respond as a know-it-all. This is an overuse of logical processing that is often found in those that have perfectionist tendencies.

Smarter and Better?

As a recovering know-it-all (an ongoing process), I know firsthand how hard it is not to give advice and tell people what to do. I grew up in a family where if you didn’t know what to do, you acted as if you did.

Once again, not a bad trait unless you overdo it.

In my case, having to have the answer became such a way of life for me that I didn’t know any different. I thought this behavior was normal. Isn’t it good to stay true to your convictions without hesitation?

After all, I do know the “right way” (my way) to get things done, and others should too!

People don’t want to work for a know-it-all because it is quite fatiguing.

Why? Because it stunts their growth and they feel shut down. Many employees state a know-it-all is a person that thinks they are smarter and better than anyone else.

Well, this certainly wasn’t my intention, nor that of most know-it-alls.

Success Formula

As with any bad habit, the first step is to recognize there is a problem.

I had a blind spot. I didn’t understand how I was coming across. When I became aware of those that had the courage to tell me the truth, I was ready to move to the next step and accept responsibility.

As a business owner, I needed to change my behavior immediately in order to build a solid team to help me grow the business.

To lessen the ineffective behaviors of being a know-it-all, I went from having to have all the answers to a more balanced method of thinking, acting, and communicating.

What this means is I worked on being clear, approachable, attentive, and accurate. This was my formula for success:

  • Be Clear – shorten the amount of detail I provided
  • Be Approachable – lighten up; not take me so seriously
  • Be Attentive – keep quiet and do more listening
  • Be Accurate – be factual in my statements and stand behind what I say

Act with Intention

The final step to ensure my new habits or TACs (thoughts, actions, and communications) was implemented was to take my Success Formula and resist the “old routines” that had been a part of the “old me.”

The “ new me” didn’t become a phony person – just the person I had intended to be all along.

This meant that I promised to stop being a know-it-all immediately and start being a person that people want to be around. That’s right – if you know everything, people don’t enjoy being around you because it feels tedious – it’s too much work!

What Are Your TACs in Leadership?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay is a business leadership strategist, executive coach, trainer, author, and co-founder of the About Leaders community. She’s consulted with hundreds of companies and trained thousands of leaders. Her Ultimate Leader Success course helps managers become more confident, decisive leaders. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
  • John Awute says:

    To stop being know-it-all person, one needs to listen much but talk less. Involve people in decision making process. Blow not your trumpet of praise.
    Thanks for the good advice.

  • R. D. Choudhary says:

    The traits of a know-it- all leaders can be transformed by advising him to work from heart centre and not mind centre where logic, false ego and false satisfaction in talking and planning futuristic things occur without bothering for the present team, their response and involvement.Outside Knowledge has this tendency of inducing a know-it-all attitude unless they are softened and tempered by inside knowledge of real self within with infinite knowledge and power. Mind then becomes subservient and endorses the results and directions coming from from heart for the outside members of a team. Communication and decisions become penetrative in everybody’s mind to carry them further successfully.

  • David McCuistion says:

    Very revealing Dr. Whitaker. Would have never thought that about you.

    It was a tough lesson for me to learn also, especially the part about using my ears instead of interrupting to voice my opinion.

    Your Success Formula is superb. I found that when I listened more, it enable others to feel more comfortable approaching me with their thoughts and ideas. It opened up all new avenues for me.

    Thanks for the reminders.

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