Leadership for Life – Smarts

By on July 15, 2013
Leadership for Life - Smarts

Our Leadership experts will be sharing tips and insights for everyone, at any station in life, at both home and work. Leadership for Life – the skills you embrace represent who you really are at all times.

I think I recall that the late Andy Rooney once said that the easiest way to grow as a person is to surround oneself with people smarter than you are. When you think about it, being surrounded by smart people is a good strategy for leaders, too.

Whether you’re a senior executive or a manager, you are judged by the success of the people who report to you. It’s not necessary to take direct credit for every good result in your organization or your team. Just being at the helm is sufficient to be thought of as an effective leader. If you surround yourself by genius, you don’t have to be one yourself.

In fact, having bright, smart, dynamic people around you, whatever your position or rank, tends to raise your own game. Most of us have a tendency to keep up with the Joneses (or the Changs, the Rosenbergs, the Simpsons, etc.), and we work harder and smarter when we’re surrounded by others who do the same. It’s like being smart is contagious.

Great leaders have systems in place that allow them to select the best and brightest to join their organizations. Rather than trying to hire people like themselves, they strive to hire those who can best help the organization to reach its goals, even when those people have very different experience, skill sets, and temperament. But for this to happen, you need to have a clear set of goals to measure recruits against.

So why do so many leaders not behave in the way described above? For some it’s ego. If I need to be thought of as the smartest guy in the room, I’ll be sure to dumb down the rest of the group. Of course, that doesn’t do much for the organization as a whole. It also creates a lot of pressure on the leader to perform and to keep on coming up with great ideas time and again. It’s easy to see why some of those egocentric leaders crash and burn.

Smart leaders need other smart people to bounce their ideas off, to challenge them, even argue with them. That keeps the organization running at full speed ahead and prevents the organization from bogging itself down and going in circles. So here’s your homework: Look for someone in your organization who’s smarter than you are. Invite him/her to lunch and bounce a few ideas around. Be prepared to be amazed at the results. When you’ve done this a couple of times, you can send me a thank you note at bschapiro@stlcc.edu.

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

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