What useless information do you hold in your head and why? (This article is actually about leadership but that’s boring, so I put a catchy title)

A think piece by Winston Sutherland
20 June 2020

I spend a lot of my time trying to find opportunities to use some of the useless information I hold in my head. For example, I know that the coffin bone, is in the the front half of a horse’s hoof. What I can’t understand is why do I know that? Why do I know these things? I have never used this information. So, why is it using up gigabytes of storage space in my head? But there’s more, I just Googled ‘coffin bones’ and found out this bone is connected to the hoof capsule via the laminae and is also known as P3 and the pedal bone. Wot?

So, I decided to do some more research and found there are pages and pages of lists of things that I need to know, on Google. Things like:

  1. The space between your eyebrows is called the ‘Glabella’
  2. The smell of fresh rain is called ‘petrichor’
  3. The tingling sensation you get when your foot is asleep is known as ‘paresthesia’- What we normally call ‘pins and needles’;
  4. ‘Dysania’ means having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
  5. Illegible handwriting is also called ‘griffonage’.

And I could go on and on, but I won’t. If you are curious go to:
https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/63034/48-things-you-didnt-know-had-names

MINDSET: So what is this about? Why do we, as humans, gather ‘useless’ information?
I do not use the term ’useless’ in a pejorative sense. It’s just a way of speaking. The only thing anyone needs to know in 2020 is how to Google. The next thing to say is that this behaviour is a long standing part of our culture. When I was a child you had to know stuff. In fact the mantra was, ‘knowledge maketh a man’ and ‘Knowledge is power’. The more you knew the more doors were opened to you and the greater the respect that you got. People gravitated to you for the knowledge in your head. You gained power because of what you knew. But times have changed. It is no longer BG. We now live in AG (BG=before Google and AG = After Google) and yet I hold on to this store of ‘useless’ information. Information that I will never use except to write this article.

So, the answer has to do with our mindset. Our mindset is at the heart of culture and culture is at the heart of leadership. It is also called the paradigm. We have retained our obsession with knowing things even when we do not need to. A leader’s paradigm is also known as their ‘implicit leadership theory’. What’s going on, unconsciously in their head.

The only thing anyone needs to know in 2020 is how to Google.

Leadership is beyond knowing stuff: Average leaders know stuff. They know the answer to problems. A bit managerial. Good leaders not only know stuff but they also do stuff. Stuff like building the capability of those they lead through coaching and mentoring and providing opportunities for growth through secondments and other developmental activities. Awesome leaders have a way of being. They don’t rely on what they know or what they can do. They listen to your ideas and say ‘let’s do it’ or ‘make it happen’ and then they get out of the way and allow you to shine. They are there when you need them to remove barriers. They know that knowing stuff is not enough.

They know that they are at their most potent when they enable others to act. Kouses and Posner “The Leadership Challenge”. When they have changed through the gears from knowing, to doing, to being. When they let others shine. Because when they let others shine they are celebrated, and their reputation grows and in that moment they achieve greatness.

What kind of a leader are you being?

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