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Leadership Thought #299 – Leveraging Other People

February 16, 2012

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Leadership is about leveraging others.  You are not supposed to have all the answers.  When in doubt ask good questions and lean on the knowledge and experience of your team and other colleagues.  There are few things less attractive about a leader than someone who acts like they know the answer when they don’t.  Confidence can be a good attribute, but hubris is not.   People see through your words and pick up quickly if you simply make it up as you go along.   More importantly, those around you who do have the answers lose respect for you and begin to question everything you say.

There is nothing wrong with a leader who admits he/she doesn’t know the answer.   In fact, I wish more people would be more honest about not knowing what to do.   It’s much better than faking it or guessing wrong.  One of the hardest things for an individual to grasp as they work their way up the organizational ladder is that it’s not how smart they are, but how much knowledge they gain from others that is more important.  One person only knows so much about anything.  A talented group of people has a much greater capacity to make better decisions.  When serving in a leadership role, your job is to make sure you are asking the right questions and then ensuring that there is a culture in place that strives to find the right answers regardless of the source of this information.

Take pride in the outcomes of the organization, not just your own opinions or ideas.   There is nothing better than hearing of successes taking place in your company that you had little to do with except building the right culture and setting a good example. It is always easier to be successful because of other people than despite them.  It’s only lonely at the top if you let it get that way.  If you do a decent job of hiring the right people, then they will want to help you and make a positive difference.  Even mediocre performers will step up their game if they feel someone cares about what they have to say and allows them to be part of the solution.

A misplaced ego can be a big obstacle to your success.  It’s usually not the smartest, loudest, or most confident leader who gets the best results. It’s the person who creates an environment where ordinary people strive to achieve extraordinary results through leveraging each other’s skills and talents.  They become a team working towards a common goal.  You will go a lot farther in business and life once you realize it’s not how smart or capable you are that matters most, but how smart and capable you make those around you feel, that makes all the difference.

Leveraging others is not only a good business strategy but an important life skill as well.