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Am I the Smartest Person in the Room?
Most leaders never consider what it’s like to be in a meeting with them. In many instances, it’s not easy. This is especially true for those leaders who insist on being the smartest person in the room. The problem, of course, is not that a leader is the most intelligent person in a room. The problem is a leader’s need to let everyone know it.
Leaders who need to prove they are the smartest will engage in a consistent set of behaviors well-known to those who observe them. For starters, they have to have the last comment in every conversation. They do this to underline, loudly, that they have opined to end the conversation.
Other telltale signs include speaking way more than they listen, interrupting and talking over others who offer opposing views, having an opinion about everything, and insisting the best answer is obvious if we would just accept what they just said. In short, these leaders dominate meetings and people, often without knowing it. That doesn’t sound very smart — and it isn’t.
We detest leaders who need to be the smartest because they undervalue everything around them — people, ideas, group process, and data that doesn’t confirm their view. By attempting to prove their intelligence, these leaders suck the air out of every room they enter. People respond by withdrawing and keeping their opinions to themselves. Not a recipe for team effectiveness.
Truly brilliant leaders work hard NOT to show themselves to be the smartest person in the room. They do this by listening actively to others, conceding the truth whenever they hear it, letting others win arguments when they deserve to and giving air time to competing views.
Best of all, at the end of conversations, they resist the need to have the last word. When leaders encourage everyone to be the smartest person at any given moment, teams thrive. Now, that’s really smart.