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“I absolutely gain a lot of insight on how to be a better person and leader from reading this book. It was a great read.

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The Greatest Leaders Are Not The Smartest In The Room, Here's Why.

A newly minted CEO held a meeting with his executive team to talk about the growth of the company. One of the CEO’s direct reports made a recommendation on how the company can grow its market share in the next 5 years. The CEO, listening very attentively was clueless about his manager suggestion, he wondered “should I ask a question, but if I do ask, that will reveal my lack of knowledge and I may appear incompetent.”

Many people in leadership positions believe that to be an effective leader, they must be the smartest person at their company and if they are not, it will somehow send a signal to their staff that the leader is somehow inept. Some people tend to think a leader should have a complete set of skills, characteristics, and abilities to handle any problem, challenge, or opportunity that comes along. 

No one is an expert on everything 

But no one is an expert in everything, the strongest businesses are built on the smartest people – not on one person. According to Brian Scudamore I've learned that strong leaders don't fight to have the first and last word. They listen to their teams, ask the right questions, and give everyone the chance to contribute. Instead of trying to do it all, find people who can do it better. With the right people in place, you can take a step back to focus on your strengths – like leading your team and planning your company's future.

Building a great team

Great leaders aren't know-it-alls who constantly try to outshine everyone. They admit when they're wrong and genuinely want to learn from others. At the end of the day, it's not about being the smartest person in the room. It's about building a team with the smartest people you can find. 

Becoming the most effective leader

In Alison Griswold article, Alison shared an interview conducted by the New York Times with Lynn Good, CEO of Duke Energy. Lynn describes what she sees as the difference between a great leader and a smart individual and the question was one she focused on when charged with merging the staffs of two companies — Progress Energy and Duke Energy — early in her tenure as chief executive. 

"At a certain career level, it's no longer about whether you are the smartest subject-matter expert in the room," Good explains. "As you think about developing people through their careers, you're looking for that transition from being the smartest person in the room — and caring so much about that — to being the most effective. 

As a leader, your best move is to intentionally not be the smartest person in the room. And other iconic figures would agree. As Lee Iacocca once said, "I hire people brighter than me and get out of their way."

Great leaders know that their team is the backbone of the company and any success the organization achieves comes from their employees love of the company, the belief in the vision and a strong attachment to the company purpose.


ABOUT THE Gifford Thomas:

Gifford is the author of The Inspirational Leader, Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible, the founder of Leadership First, a member of Harvard Business Review Advisory Council and a leadership consultant with GLG. Follow our 120,000 + community of leaders on LinkedIn and for a copy of my book, you can follow this LINK to become a leader who can inspire their team to believe in the impossible.

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