Can a manager ever say, “I don’t know what to do?”
In this scene from U-571, Harvey Keitel, tells Matthew McConaughey, that as a commander in the Navy he must always know the answer. He can never show the men any hesitation or doubt.
Does business life mimic war? Do managers always have to have all the answers at their fingertips, or is it ok for them to their team they aren't sure what the right thing to do is?
I don't think the problem is when a manager says he or she doesn't know. It's what they do after that. Too often, they will do nothing, give conflicting advice, or change their minds multiple times after a plan has already been set in motion.
The best course of action when you don't know it to simple say, I don't know but...we're going to figure it out. Gather the data you need, speak with the relevant stakeholders, and of course as a manager you should use your experience to make informed decisions. Also, best to set some sort of deadline as people have a tendency to procrastinate on tough decisions.
Saying I don't know in business isn't a sign of weakness, rather it's a sign of high self-esteem and self-confidence. No need to guess, or just wing it. Your team will surely appreciate your confidence, when you say, "I don't have the information I need right now to make the decision but we're going to get it, and do it right!