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Do You Want To Be Right? Or Successful?

Do You Want To Be Right? Or Successful?

Being right Isn’t everything – it’s just a good start.

I came up with this expression many years ago when I worked with an incredibly intelligent executive who struggled to get the outcomes she should have been able to easily achieve. She just couldn’t get buy-in from the people she led.

Many leaders like to position themselves as “the smartest person in the room”. And there’s a lot to be said for being smart. But you have to know how to use your intellect to get the best possible outcomes from your people. 

You have to go way beyond your pure intellectual horsepower into the nebulous world of emotional intelligence and human connection! There are pros and cons with being the smartest person in the room.

On the positive side:

  • There’s something compelling about really solid logic – especially if you can communicate it effectively!
  • Astute judgment is critical in decision making, and if you make great decisions, your team is way more likely to be successful
  • If you have the competence that comes from high order intellect, it forms the foundation  for building people’s confidence and respect
  • It makes communication easier… If you’ve ever tried to explain something that doesn’t make sense, you’ll know what I mean.

But there are also some drawbacks:

  • No one likes a know it all
  • If you’re always right, people will eventually stop questioning 
  • It puts pressure on you to always come up with the answer
  • If you beat people down with your own logic, they may begrudgingly agree, but they’ll never be motivated to deliver for you
  • People want autonomy, so often they’ll look for other means of getting their own way, which aren’t always entirely positive
  • If all your decisions are right, you’ll erode your people’s individual accountability, because you usurp their decision-making authority

There are a few core principles in leveraging your intellect so that you take your focus away from being the smartest person in the room and, instead, apply your mental horsepower to getting the best outcome. They are very different things!

Never lose sight of the object of the exercise:

  1. It’s not to be right, it’s to get the right outcome…
    A. This includes getting commitment  from your people to execute on the decisions that are made

  2. To build the team’s confidence in their own abilities, not just yours
  3. To make yourself redundant, and this does three things:
    A. It mitigates key person risk;
    B. It builds team capability; and
    C. It frees you up for the promotion that will inevitably come when you achieve superior results

  4. To grow other leaders… your primary accountability is to build leadership capability below you
    A. Without a healthy pipeline of leaders, no organization will reach its performance potential

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