Smart people learn – from an early age – that they are smart. Indeed, they learn to dazzle others with their brilliance. This is self-reinforcing behavior.
Smart people use their brains to scale society’s ladders. Soon, they get leadership roles. Then, the paradigm changes. Intelligence—by itself—is not enough. Here are two challenges that intelligent people face:
Challenge Number One: Giving up the need to be win every debate.
Smart people have more data at their fingertips – facts, figures, concepts and so forth. And they think quickly. So, they usually win arguments. However, this can be a weakness. Why?
When leaders stifle opposing views, it is dangerous. Why? No one (regardless of their brains) has all the answers. Historically, smart people make gigantic blunders because of their own bias. We all have biases, irrespective of our intelligence. Others see those biases, so smart people need to input from others.
Challenge Number Two: Stop telling people you already know something.
Often, it is tough for smart people to listen when someone tells them something that they already know. They might say: “I already know that,” or worse still “Tell me something I don’t know.”
This is demeaning, and useless. Worse still, this practice dissuades colleagues from sharing critical information with the leader. Then the leader is caught in his own bubble, and inevitably makes more mistakes.
How does one avoid these problems?
Peter Drucker’s advice: “Our mission in life is to make a positive difference – not to prove how smart we are.” Philosopher Joseph Joubert said, “The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.”
The goal is success, and you always need the truth. Therefore, leaders must ask themselves: “What if I am wrong?” “What are the consequences?”
When someone tells the leader something he already knows, the leader can be positive by saying: “Interesting,” or “Isn’t that the truth” or simply “I agree.” Wow! This is so easy to change, but only if the leader focuses on his team, not on showing he is the smartest person in the room.
It is a cruel irony. People move up organizations by being brainy achievers. Often achievers are egocentric: “It is all about me.” Then they become Leaders. Suddenly it is about “them” – the team, division, and the firm. The brain power propelled them to the corner office, needs to be repurposed. It is a complete change
Some bosses love showing how clever they are, whereas Leaders sculpt average folks into heroes. That is the real magic. Leaders are positive change catalysts: They seek excellence over ego, and wisdom over showy intellectual acuity. Humility is a super-power for true leaders.