Smartness Syndrome– Smartest Person in the Room: But If Room is Full of– Idiots, Dummies… So Much for Smartest…

Many people in business like to think they are the smartest person in the room: But is that good or bad?

According to Jack Welch; I was never the smartest guy in the room: From the first person I hired, I was never the smartest guy in the room, and that’s a big deal. And if you’re going to be a leader or if you’re a leader and you’re the smartest guy in the world– in the room, you’ve got real problems…

Then there is the quote; if you are the smartest one in the room, you are probably in the wrong room… which is often taken literally, of course, it’s not quite accurate but the advice still holds true… There will always be someone who knows more than you or is better than you at something. The ‘wrong room’ is a metaphor for the wrong mindset. If you feel like you cannot learn anything from the people around you (people in the room) then by all means find another room…

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However, according to Dallon Christensen; there is a place in business for being the smartest, e.g.; educate customers about your business, the market, the industry, the competitive environment… Be the smartest person in the room when it comes to your specialty. Show your smartness and give customers a glimpse of what it would be like to work with you… As a core strategy in business, consider yourself a teacher and educate– customers, partners… and show them that you have experience, expertise to fulfill their needs… you want people to trust your capabilities, so be the smartest person in the room and provide them with something memorable…

In the article It Doesn’t Matter If You’re Smartest Person In The Room by Kyle Irwin writes: How do you know you’re the smartest person in the room? There’s no way to definitively rate how ‘smart’ someone is overall. Sure you can test people in specific subjects, but as far as knowing and ranking people in overall smartness– its absurd…

According to Alastair Dryburgh; the dynamics of smartest person in the room work something like this; as you develop experience and expertise you may very well be the smartest person in the room for a specific area but as you move up in management the story changes… You need to cover more and more different areas, e.g.; you may need to deal with– R&D, marketing, sales, finance… and a whole host of other things. There is no way you can be the smartest person in the room for all of these different areas. And trying to do so just means that you surround yourself with mediocrity…

So here’s a question: Who on your team is smarter than you? If nobody comes to mind, be worried; you career probably wouldn’t be going much further…

In the article Let Go of Your Need to Be the Smartest Person in the Room by Art Petty writes: One of the most common and damaging ‘blind spots’ for a leader is compulsion to consistently demonstrate that they are the smartest person in the room… Many well-intentioned leaders don’t recognize their own smartest-person-in-the-room behaviors. They don’t realize that their greater-than-thou behavior inhibits participation from team members rather than encouraging it. By definition blind spots are difficult to see but with a little self-diagnose and some simple corrective actions, you can mitigate a few common behavior flaws, for example:

  • Final word: Leaders who struggle with smartest-person-in-the-room syndrome often operate with a false belief that being in charge means always having the answer. This can drive you to assert your opinion as the final word, and it teaches people to suppress their own ideas and wait for solutions from the person in charge…
  • Eyes, face and voice say it all: Some leaders telegraph their smartest-person-in-the-room persona through verbal and non-verbal responses. Some managers portray what is perceived as disinterest or disdain for the commentary of team members by interrupting them in mid-sentence or maintaining a facial expression that seems to ask: Why are you using up my valuable oxygen with this stupid idea? While a leader may not intend to communicate disregard or disdain, team members will pick up on visible and audible cues…
  • Ask more than tell: Questions are powerful leadership tools and more effective than orders in most circumstances. Train yourself to respond to ideas with questions that help you and others better develop ideas. Strive to understand before offering your own perspective…
  • Shut up and let others decide: While you never have to cede your right to veto an idea or approach, use this power sparingly. Through questioning and building upon the ideas of others, you can often encourage the modification or adaptation of someone else’s approach without throwing your weight around. If you must, use the line-item veto…
  • Look for the beauty in ideas, not the flaws: Some people see the beauty in an idea, while others find the flaws. A micro-managing boss sees flaws and hammers people for changes to minutiae. An effective manager acknowledges the beauty inherent in ideas and focuses questions and efforts on realizing that beauty…

In the article Are You The Smartest Person In The Room? by Cory Treffiletti writes: Are you the smartest person in the room at work? If you answer ‘yes’, then you might need to rethink how you operate in business… Humility is often overlooked personality trait in business but it’s probably one of the most important characteristics that can lead to success…

The most successful people possess a combination of smartness, confidence, ego, humility… They are smart enough to know what they ‘don’t know’ and they are always willing to hear other sides of an argument.  Approaching an argument with the willingness to be proven wrong is important… it’s the willingness to be wrong that defines a great leader… surround yourself with people who are smarter and more knowledgeable than you are… Hence you learn more because you’re forced to see challenges through the eyes of others… However when you think that you are smartest person in the room, then you need to either; take down your hubris a bit and learn some humility, or you need to start filling the room with people who know more about things than you do…

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In the article Smartest Person In The Room by Dan Oswald writes: In a study the average IQ of top performing leaders is 104. Now since the average score for an IQ test is 100 and 68% of the scores fall between 85 and 115, a score of 104 is exactly ‘average’… And maybe that’s why most CEOs don’t brag about their smartness and why no one seems to be drawing a parallel between IQ and successful leadership.

Maybe this is why autocratic forms of leadership have come under attack in recent decades. Autocratic leaders often think that they are the ‘smartest person in the room’ and they make decision based only on their own ideas and judgments and rarely seek the advice of group members… even though the average autocratic leader is no smarter than the rest of the group…

In the article Never Think You Are The Smartest Person In The Room by Howard Lewinter writes: There are business leaders who believe they are the smartest person in the room and choose never to listen to what others have to say… In business, you can rarely think that you are the smartest person in the room; if and when you do you instantly lose the opportunity to connect with people… A true business leader listens to what others have to say, asks questions and listens…

As a leader, you must rely on team members to be smarter than you in their area of expertise, e.g.; For sales? Ask and listen to sales force… For products, services? Ask and listen to marketing people… For customer service? Ask and listen to customer service team… The point is that your team should be the smartest in the room for their area of responsibility…

So never act like you are the smartest person in the room just– listen, ask questions… However, there are times when you must take the lead and be smartest person in the room, i.e.; give directions, make decisions… The key is finding the right balance…

In the article Why the Smartest Guy in the Room Isn’t by Anthony Iannarino writes: To build a successful business you must have the situational smartness that will reassure  customers, partners, stakeholders… that you can solve all the issues… But it’s counter-productive even dangerous to suggest that only you have the best ideas… that you are the smartest person in the room and quickly dismiss other people’s (i.e., customers, partners…) thoughts, concerns, ideas, suggestions…

People can quickly pick-up your greater-than-thou attitude– the smugness, patronizing look, body language, and facial expressions. They all give away the fact that you do not value other people’s ideas… and yes, your ideas may be the smartest… but that misses the point; you must at least listen, understand that other people, especially customers, want to be heard…

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For some people being the smartest person in the room is important– it’s an ego thing– but sometimes it’s nothing more than being the smartest person in a room full of idiots, dummies… According to Ken Okel; the challenge is that while you may be the smartest in that room… that doesn’t mean you are smartest in the ever-changing business world…

Being the smartest whether it’s in– your team, your business, your industry… requires an ongoing commitment to learning, listening… otherwise the idiots in the room may realize that you’re not so smart, after all… According to Rachelle Gardner; surrounding yourselves with people ‘smarter’ than you; people who are already at a place where you want to be, people who inspire and encourage you toward goals… that’s the  ultimate smartness– It’s great to work with people who’s ‘smarts’ make you smarter…