Leadership is a complex and multifaceted concept, and many experts have different opinions on what makes a great leader. One such expert is Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In one of his famous quotes, Grant says, “Great leaders don’t boast about how much they know, they marvel at how little they understand” (Grant, 2021). In this blog post, we will explore the meaning behind this quote and its implications for leadership.
According to Grant, a great leader is not someone who brags about their knowledge and expertise. Instead, they recognize the limitations of their understanding and seek to learn from others. This approach is rooted in a growth mindset, which is the belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication (Dweck, 2019). Leaders who have a growth mindset are open to feedback, willing to take risks, and embrace failure as a learning opportunity (Dweck, 2019).
The idea that great leaders don’t boast about their knowledge is supported by research on humility. Humility is defined as “a multifaceted construct that involves an accurate self-assessment, another-oriented perspective, and a willingness to seek feedback and personal growth” (Owens et al., 2018, p. 42). Humble leaders are more effective because they are open to others’ perspectives, more collaborative, and better at building relationships with their team members (Owens et al., 2018).
Another reason why great leaders marvel at how little they understand is that they recognize that leadership is not a solo endeavor. Instead, it requires a team of people with diverse skills, experiences, and perspectives. By acknowledging their limitations, leaders can leverage the strengths of their team members and create a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
Adam Grant’s quote, “Great leaders don’t boast about how much they know, they marvel at how little they understand” highlights the importance of humility and a growth mindset in leadership. Leaders who are open to feedback, willing to learn from others, and recognize their limitations are more effective in creating high-performing teams and achieving their goals.
Dweck, C. S. (2019). The growth mindset: A guide to cultivating a growth mindset. Retrieved from https://www.education.com/mindset-kit
Grant, A. (2021). Great leaders don’t boast about how much they know, they marvel at how little they understand. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/AdamMGrant/status/1423824887562271747
Owens, B. P., Johnson, M. D., & Mitchell, T. R. (2018). Expressed humility in organizations: Implications for performance, teams, and leadership. Organization Science, 29(3), 41-54. doi:10.1287/orsc.2017.1192