I was listening to the Masters in Business podcast this weekend that is hosted by Barry Ritholtz. He interviewed Jeff Immelt, the CEO of GE from 2001 (September 10th) to 2017. It was an outstanding podcast and, although I was not very familiar with Immelt before listening, I found him quite delightful and incredibly approachable. I will definitely read his new book, Hot Seat, and I encourage you to listen to the podcast, especially if you’re in leadership in any way.
The part of the interview that really struck me was when Ritholtz asked what Immelt would have done differently, in hindsight. He said a number of things, but the one that grabbed my attention most was, “I wish I had said, ‘I don’t know,’ more.” That’s a scary thing to be brave enough to say in a corporate setting, let alone as the CEO of a behemoth like GE. As leaders, we believer we are supposed to have all the answers—but are we?
No matter what your role, I hope you’ll give this simple sentence some thought today: “I wish I had said, ‘I don’t know,’ more.” “I don’t know,” is scary, but it’s also liberating. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to say it. It also shows how much confidence one has when they do. Why do you think Immelt wished he had said that one sentence more? What possibilities could be discovered if we are brave enough to say, “I don’t know”? This is worth chewing on.