The Benefits Of Being An Ignorant Leader

November 14, 2012 — 19 Comments
The Benefits Of Being An Ignorant Leader | Joseph Lalonde

Did you know you could benefit from being an ignorant leader?

It sounds counter-intuitive but it’s the truth. There’s a benefit in being ignorant.

Man staning on top of Mount Washington

Image by Izzard

What Makes An Ignorant Leader

I’m not talking about being lacking knowledge or being stupid. That won’t make you a better leader.

What I’m talking about is being ignorant of what’s not possible.

When you’re ignorant of the impossible, you’re able to lead better. You’re able to lead into the unknown.

Why Being Ignorant Makes You A Better Leader

All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.
– Mark Twain

Being ignorant can be a huge asset in your leadership. You’re willing to attempt things that have never been done.

Take the tales of leaders like:

  • Christopher Columbus: He took a route that others said was impossible. He ignored that fact and proved them wrong. Discovering America and changing the course of human history
  • John F. Kennedy: Who would have thought we could put a man on the moon? In 1963, John challenged America to send a man to the moon. We satisfied that impossible challenge.
  • Joel Runyon: He’s a man on a mission. He’s pushing himself to do the things he had thought were impossible. Pushing aside those doubts and becoming ignorant, he’s completed many tasks he thought was impossible.
  • B.F. Goodrich: He was the laughingstock of Akron, Oh as he tried to vulcanize rubber. As we all know, he succeeded and became a millionaire.

When you’re ignorant of what can’t be done, it makes everything possible. You’re able to move forward where others see obstacles and roadblocks.

Ignorant leaders see possibilities. New horizons that are waiting to be crossed. Discoveries that have yet to be made.

They’re also able to see past the doubts and disbelief of those who are in the know.

If others are saying it can’t be done, they’re asking “Why?” or “Can I do it?” There’s a sense of challenge and excitement. They don’t see the obstacle, they see the payoff.

Being an ignorant leader takes courage. It takes faith. It takes thick skin.

You’ll be criticized for pie in the sky thinking. Or for being unrealistic. Or for being foolish.

Yet if you’re unwilling to take the risk, you’ll never see the payoff.

In the end, is it really ignorant leadership or wise leadership? The choice is up to you.

When you combine ignorance and leverage, you get some pretty interesting results.
– Warren Buffett

Question: When have you succeeded because you were ignorant to the fact that it couldn’t be done? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    Interesting post, Joe.  It makes one think.  That’s good.  You had me at the Mark Twain quote, but the rest of the post had some great examples.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Thanks Dan. It’s amazing what can be done when one is ignorant of the difficulty or impossibility.

  • http://twitter.com/JoeDeGiorgio Joe DeGiorgio

    Great examples here, Joe, I especially like the Kennedy and Columbus stories. Talk about impossible dreams! They did show that anything is truly possible if you are a little “ignorant”…

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Right on Joe. When we go for the “impossible” it becomes possible. Anything you’re going after that has been labeled impossible?

  • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TCAvey

    As I read this, I thought of kids and their imaginations. They don’t understand limits like gravity. They TRY things, they aren’t afraid of failure. 
    There are so many times I need to be more like a kid!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      We all do TC. The world could be a much different place if we decided to think like children.

  • http://sparkvoice.wordpress.com/ DS

    Joe – you mentioned BF Goodrich, but not Mr. Goodyear, who never got to see the end result of vulcanized rubber.  When it comes to ignorance – I think of “ignorance is bliss.”  I believe when I was younger I routinely acted out of ignorance, mainly as it related to family background.  I had no idea how poorly my family and our living situation reflected on me as a child.  I never allowed a person’s judgement of my family to limit my pursuit of my dreams.  To this day, I count that early ‘ignorance’ as a blessing.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That’s awesome DS. Sometimes when we’re aware of our family situations, they hold us back. You didn’t realize what yours was and you didn’t let that hold you back. Keep pushing forward!

      • http://sparkvoice.wordpress.com/ DS

        Joe that’s great encouragement for any person.  Regardless of your past, you hold the future in your hand.  Thanks for the nod.

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    Paying for a house in Guatemala was an ignorant decision.  I want to move onto bigger and more ignorant decisions – perhaps a whole village!?!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Very true Jon. I’m sure there were times you thought it couldn’t be done. In the end you guys raised the money and were able to build that house. What do you think it would take to build a whole village? I bet it can be done.

      • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

        One house at a time!  I think it takes intentional step by step decisions.  I think it will take a continued effort to build my platform and to engage the blogging community to get involved.  I’m starting to prep for the next adventure – and possibly the next house – in Guatemala this summer.

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    What an insightful post! After reading it I can say being ignorant is required to doing something great and legendary.  I really like the example you shared. Along the same lines as being ignorant I think positive thinking and the ability to think big is important. Great post Joe

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Those two are also vital to great leadership Dan. You combine the three and you can have mighty things happen.

      • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

         So true, they become a catalyst!

        • http://twitter.com/Born_Two_Lead BornTwoLead

          Leaders are the spark that gets the momentum going.  So true Dan.  Thanks!

          TJ Trent

  • http://twitter.com/ThomasTJTrent Thomas (TJ) Trent

    Great post!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Thanks TJ. What was your best takeaway from the post?

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