My job requires vast amounts of movement from client site to client site which means I spend most of my days out and about in the city. A person who I work with (who mind you, is super connected) walked with me out to my car after our last meeting.
We ran into this gentlemen in the hallway on the way out and he clearly knows my colleague very well. From the first thing he said, I knew that he was a big deal because he sounded like he commanded respect and seemed very intelligent.
I do not know why, but I was nervous. I had a question in my head (my damn colleague was not going to make the introduction but called this guy the mayor) and I was itching to ask him about his background. The question: " Do you know majority of the people that are down around the state?" Ohhh yeah, this was going to get me information I wanted but when I asked it, it came out a little different.
Actual question: "Do you know majority of the people you already know?"
What did I just ask? That made absolutely zero sense and I looked like an idiot. A moment of silence proceeded nothing be laughter. He answered with, "Yes, I know majority of the people I know."
My life is over. I found out this guy was one of the more influential people around my city. He knows everyone and their mother and their grandma. I just asked him the dumbest question ever... Wait, did I?
On the drive home, I realized that the question was actually smart. Read it again: "Do you know majority of the people you already know?"
I can make the case that some leaders do not "know" their people. They might think they understand majority of them but often their thoughts and even rationalizations do not even come close to matching up with their followers. Hence why some CEOs have an approval rating of less than 50% from their won employees/followers. It begs the question, do they truly know their employees or do they just claim to know?
Furthermore, our biggest down fall will be thinking we know someone when we truly do not. Especially as a leader, it is very important to know your people - even going so far to say that you should know them better than they know themselves. If you can accomplish the latter, then you, your company and most importantly, your people, will be successful. If you fail, then you might find yourself wishing you knew the answer to the dumbest smartest question.