Select Page

Technically brilliant, socially abrasive

January 3, 2021
Leadership Advisory

Mark Twain is attributed with saying, “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did.  I said I didn’t know.”

The fastest and most effective way to attract followers is to be an authentic leader.  Have you ever heard anyone get excited about following a know it all?

Being bright will earn you respect, but it doesn’t guarantee success. I’ve heard it said of partners and managers, “he is very smart, but he is so abrupt and difficult to work with no one wants to be around him.”  Technically brilliant, socially abrasive.  A recipe for disaster.

Jim is a very successful partner in one of the Big Four accounting firms who will retire this year.  Jim has a very high IQ and holds multiple Masters degrees.  When he first began his career he realized that he was not very effective with people.  He said, “I usually had a quick response and knew the answer to most problems.  As a result, I would shut down dialogue when in a team meeting and people began to withdraw and just wait for me to give them the answer.”

By the time Jim became a manager, he learned to “play dumb”, as he called it.  He taught himself to ask others to help him figure problems out and would tell them he wasn’t sure if his approach was accurate.  Jim said an amazing thing happened.  People would jump right in and began to help him figure things out.  Over the years, this technique became an authentic practice for Jim and he became an esteemed partner and leader with many followers.

It takes a disciplined, self-confident and humble person to play dumb and ask questions even when he or she knows the answer. In my mid-twenties I met Jeanette Groepper, a wise teacher and business owner.  She would always ask questions that you knew she knew the answers to.  This was her way of learning a persons thought level and understanding of a situation.  I’ve observed many leaders who just can’t restrain themselves when it comes to flaunting their intelligence.  This will hinder them from becoming the leader they might have been.

Knowledge must be tempered with wisdom if you hope to attract talented followers.  Don’t be too smart.

Being In Control…

...demands self-control The meeting ran late, the taxi took twice the time estimated to arrive leaving 15 minutes to clear security and board my flight.  To my good fortune, there is no line and the security agent is waiting.  This was going to work and hope of making...

Desperation Diminishes

"Desperation is like stealing from the Mafia: you stand a good chance of attracting the wrong attention." Douglas Horton Many capable professionals disqualify themselves from positions of leadership because they appear desperate.  One of my mentors explained that...

Realistic or just stuck?

Pragmatism is basically considered a virtue in the world of accounting, finance and consulting. But there is a risk of being too realistic and over-relying on how you've always done things. My son, who works for a financial firm, shared his recent experience.  A group...