Why ‘knowing it all’ won’t help you at work

January 18, 2015, 8:00 PM UTC
Key Speakers At The Bloomberg CFO Conference
Adena Friedman, chief financial officer of Carlyle Group Management LLC, speaks at the Bloomberg CFO Conference in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Public investors don't assign enough value to the carried-interest income earned by private-equity firms, said Friedman. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Peter Foley — Bloomberg via Getty Images

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time? is written by Adena Friedman, President of Nasdaq.

Many women try to advance in their careers by having all the answers; by being the go-to person for information and advice; or by building expertise in a particular field. However, as they progress, gain broader responsibilities, and grow into leadership roles, they realize that their span of control is too vast to be able to know every answer. It is no longer possible to be the go-to person in every situation, and suddenly, they have to be the one who is asking the questions rather than answering them.

So what is one skill that all aspiring leaders should develop? The power to listen. Listen to clients, employees, and peers and stay open to their ideas, feedback, and answers. Doing so is vital to the success of any leader. A leader who listens is one who is malleable and willing to refine her views and actions as she learns new information or hears a better idea.

Listening is also a powerful mentoring tool; being listened to is both fulfilling and motivational. Empowering those around you to be heard and valued makes the difference between a leader who simply instructs and one who inspires. Leading the organization based on what you learn from those you value is what I have found to be both among the more difficult and rewarding parts of becoming a leader.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

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