First a quote: “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting tomatoes in a fruit salad.” ― Miles Kington
As a leader, it is wise to surround yourself with the “best & brightest” people possible. Your goal should be to attract, recruit and hire the best talent available. The quality of people on your team should be a competitive advantage. It makes sense then, that you would want to create an environment where the “best & brightest” would want to be on your team; where they too have a desire to work with you, as opposed to having to work for you.
If you agree with this philosophical approach to leadership, then the question becomes, “Are you leading in a way that attracts the “best & brightest”? Do really smart people want to work for you or, do they have to work for you?” Please note, I’m not asking if the best, most intelligent people want to work in your industry, or for your company, I’m asking about your personal approach to leadership. Does your leadership style attract, or repel, the best people? How do you know?
It should be obvious the most talented people almost always have the most employment/career options and rarely have to work for a “less than ideal” leader, much less a jerk, or self-centered, egotistical manager.
My focus this morning, however, is on the opposite side of the same coin.
What if you are one of the “best & brightest” in the company? What if you are fortunate enough to be one of the smartest people in the room, or on the team? If so, I ask you similar questions: Do people want to work with you? Do you behave in ways that attract people, or perhaps repels them? Do people get to work with you, or do they have to work with you?
Personally, I make it a priority to seek out people who are smarter than me. (That is usually not much of a challenge as I rarely see myself as the sharpest Crayon in the box.) Working with the best, most intelligent people, often provides me with an opportunity to learn, to grow and to get better at what I do. Working, and associating, with intellectually superior people can be like having my own private professors. This, of course, assumes those people are willing to share their knowledge and brilliance. It helps if they are also humble, patient, understanding and demonstrate a desire to teach and to help others learn and grow.
Occasionally, I bump into a person or two, a small percentage of the truly intelligent, who suffer from what I’ll describe as the “Curse of the Brilliant”. Individuals afflicted by this curse may truly be the smartest people in the room however, some also spend a great deal of time and effort making sure everyone is aware of their brilliance. It almost feels as if they must continually prove their superiority by reducing or diminishing the value of others. Their attitude tends to undermine the sense of teamwork and camaraderie. Not only does the team not appreciate, or value their brilliance, they begin to resent their ideas and contributions to the team.
My suggested remedies for the curse:
• Instead of using brilliance to illuminate the intelligence gaps in others, that same brilliance can be used to shine a light on the strengths of others. Everyone has gifts; help others leverage their strengths, help others feel important about what they bring to the table.
• Know your audience. Speak at their level, use stories and metaphors for stronger connections.
• When disagreeing with others, there is no reason to “make them wrong” in the process.
• Be patient and encouraging when helping others learn, grow and understand your perspectives.
• Use a lesson I learned from our son’s high school basketball coach which was: “Let your game speak for itself.” There is no need for self-promotion.
• Develop your reputation as a teacher, mentor and supporter of others.
• Practice a leadership style described by my friend Kris Olson as “humble confidence”.
In the big picture, does it really matter to most people if a tomato is fruit or vegetable?
How will you lead differently, or better, this week?
Have a great week!!
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
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