It is OKAY to NOT have all of the answers


I am going to put the uncomfortable video right at the top for this post.

There. Do you know what I love about this principal? He got in there and interacted meaningfully with his staff and students. I am not sure what kind of race this was BUT he was willing to be vulnerable (and take a few jokes) in order to make himself real. I don’t know who he is but my guess is that he is equally as vulnerable with his staff at meetings. I posted this here quite frankly to remind you that it is okay to admit what you don’t know. This applies in all sorts of education contexts. It is okay to admit that a student bested you and that you do not know the answer to a question (but that you will find out and get back to them). It is okay to admit to teachers that you do not know how you will get more parental involvement (but involve them in brainstorming ideas to do just that). It is okay to admit to principals that you are not fully sure how to fund all of their building improvement projects with the budget you have (but you are hiring someone who does and will share with them what is shared with you). Peter Block is one of my favorite education thinkers. (read more about him here: On one podcast in particular he said that so much of work is posturing. We are so busy trying to pretend that we have it all together that we fail to connect with one another and get anything done.  To his point, in education we could lose the end goal (improving outcomes for kids) because we are so busy pretending to know the answer and be on top of the work that we never actually get to the answer or the work.

Forbes (another frequent read of mine) puts it this way, “We are conditioned to having and providing quick, confident answers as a sign of competence and leadership. We behave as though any gaps in knowledge should be hidden at all cost. But is this desire to have an answer – and have it quickly – actually helping you? How often do we trade factual accuracy and thoughtfulness for immediacy? Why do people find it so hard to say – “I don’t know”? You can read the full article here:

In their book Leading With Soul,  Bolman & Deal (2001) write, “Be rational. Be in control. Be careful. Those are messages from your head, not from your heart. It’s hard to let go of old rules.” (p. 53) You have to know that education as a field is heart work. Notice I said “heart” and not “hard”. This is work that you have to undertake out of love and a real desire to make a difference. If that is you then you must also know that since this is work that you engage in because you find it fulfilling, you do not have to be perfect at it. Like anything it gets better with practice and even then there will still be areas of growth.  The point is that it is okay to be yourself and invite your teachers, students, principals in as collaborators in the work in front of you. It is difficult to move forward if you pretend to have all of the answers when your students/teachers/principals know that you don’t. Better to be vulnerable and invite their input. You can be captain of the ship BUT you can also be facilitator of the ship and that is great too. Remember, to lead is to constantly learn and while others may not tell you the truth, I always will. You need to be open to working with others if you want to lead successfully. No one signs up for a one man band. – Dr. Kia