01/27/2012 05:16 pm ET Updated Mar 28, 2012

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

A friend of mine is in a senior position at a mid cap that just filed bankruptcy. Sadly hundreds of employees will lose their jobs, investors and lenders will lose their money and everyone who poured their heart and soul into working there will experience a painful defeat. And that's not even the bad news.

The bad news is it could have been avoided and my friend knew how. He's an incredibly intelligent, driven executive who understands his business and industry better than anyone. That wasn't enough; it never is. What he needed was the ability to convince those around him that the course they were on was doomed to failure.

Leaders don't have to be the smartest, and they don't have to know all the answers. What they must have is the ability to convince people to follow them and this is a skill you can't delegate or buy.

Think about the times that you knew you were a participant in a flawed strategy. The times you thought and maybe even said, 'this is a mistake' but couldn't bring people around to your view. Leaders must learn to influence without ultimate power because it ain't much different when you do have the power. Study the methods of the people around you that do it well. It's a skill that requires practice.

In the end the only thing worse than ignorance is wisdom without the ability to convince people that our ideas are the right ones.