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News Flash: When Knowledge and Experience Cripple a Leader
September 28,2018 [ by Larry Chao ] 347 Read and 0 Comment

When Knowledge & Experience Cripple a Leader

To most leaders, knowledge is power. It is said if you have knowledge, then you have an advantage over your competitors and your peers. But nowadays, knowledge can be a liability, if the leader is the only one who knows what to do.

Take, for example, this blue-chip US multinational foods company that has operated in the Asia Region for over 50 years. Using a “one size fits all” approach, it has crushed the competition in the markets in which it operates.

Then suddenly, five years ago, its market share came under attack, as local competitors built enough capability to produce innovations that met consumer needs faster and more frequently than ever before. Gradually this multi-national ceded market share.

As it turned out, the problem was that the CEO knew too much. In fact, he knew so much that no one else in the organization would act unless he told them what to do. This led to a bottleneck in decision-making, which affected the speed and quality of execution.

Finally, the multinational decided to replace the CEO with an executive from outside the Region, who knew nothing about the Asian markets. With little knowledge, he had no choice but to delegate decision-making. Rather than telling his direct reports what to do, he encouraged them to figure out what to do and to use their best judgment. This has proven to be a winning way of working.

The prevailing leadership practice is for bosses to tell others what to do. But if we are to enhance competitiveness, leaders must encourage their teams to learn what to do. Otherwise, they will be crippled by old knowledge & outdated practices, rather than inspired by changes and opportunities in the marketplace.


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