Why Great Leaders Don’t Make Predictions About Things They Don’t Know


Us humans don’t like uncertainty.

Trying to predict where the economy is going. Needing to know what the weather’s going to be like next week. Guessing whose going to win Wimbledon.

The need for certainty is understandable. As highly cognitive creatures, our imaginations can easily run wild. It’s easy to get overly excited or become despondently fearful. Without a strong degree of certainty in our lives it would be  almost impossible to get anything done.

So in order to try and develop uncertainty in this highly complex and often uncertain world, we make our own predictions about what will happen.

But there’s one big problems with predictions.

They’re very difficult to get right.

To maximise our chances of trying to make accurate predictions, it’s essential to have strong expertise and knowledge of the circumstances in question. That’s why top institutions always look to find guidance from the best experts in a particular field. Rather than forming loosely created opinions, they identify, listen and trust the judgement of experts.

Important predictions should be left to those who know what they are talking about.

Unfortunately, in many cases often the opposite is true.

If we’re brutally honest with ourselves, most of us have strong opinions about almost everything. In many cases we’re often more than willing to try and predict almost anything.

Whose going to win the election. What the effect of Brexit will be. How the new high profile football signing is going to perform next season.

But great leaders are different. In ten years as a recruiter having worked with several high performing leaders, I can say with confidence that the best leaders rarely try to predict things they know little about. They realise the responsibility they have and rarely stray outside their own expertise.

Here are some reasons why great leaders don’t make predictions about things they don’t know.

It’s better to ask and expert

Everyone has an opinion.

Opinions only take a few seconds to create and with a little bit of research and enthusiasm, it’s easy to sound convincing.

Yet hardened, real-life experience is much harder to find. And the value of this expertise is often much more valuable.

Great leaders understand that specialized expertise directed towards specific problems is the definition of their power. In order to predict circumstances accurately it’s best to listen to small numbers of impartial specialists rather than even a large amounts of strong “opinions”.

Not only does this improve the likelihood of success but also save time, energy and confusion.

Great leaders trust experts.

It can effect others

Leadership is a big responsibility.

In fact, the more a leader considers their followers, the better the leader they usually are. That’s why they only comment on things they are knowledgable about, since they appreciate the significance it may have on others.

One of my well known clients is the CEO of a very well known FTSE company. He’s renowned in international business for his leadership skills and ability to aspire others. I once asked him what he felt was the biggest reason for his success and his reply was instant:

“Sticking to what I know. It’s the only way to build credibility with others”.

Great leaders understand that people look up to them. Especially during times of emergency. Hence they realise the importance of having credibility with their followers and only making decisions based on sound analysis.

Otherwise people will see straight through them.

Great leaders act responsibly.

It can be better to see how things play out first

But perhaps most importantly, there’s also one other big reason why the best leaders don’t make predictions too hastily.

It’s because often there’s no reason to do so.

You see the problem’s with making predictions is that often it’s almost impossible to be right. Often situations are so complex and reliant on so many external factors that no prediction can be accurate. Even with the best experts and analysis results are simply too unpredictable.

Great leaders understand that rather than spending endless time trying to play God and trying to predict the future, its usually better to focus on actually doing. Focussing on the circumstances in hand and doing the right thing at the right time. They realise that in this increasingly connected world, uncertainty is now a part of every day life. With business models, economies, civilisations and technologies continuously being uprooted and disrupted, the simple truth is that no one can predict what’s going to happen.

Great leaders focus on actions rather than predictions.


Anyone can make a prediction.

But accurate ones can only come with hardened expertise.

Great leaders believe that rather than trying to forecast a prediction on everything, its better to focus on what they know. To only comment on subjects they have expertise in, and to make predictions carefully.

It’s the only way to build credibility with others.

Do you make predictions about things you don’t know?

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