How To Lead People Who Are Smarter Than You

  • — February 16, 2017

    Most managers strive to build teams of highly skilled, intelligent and smart people. That’s because the key to any team’s success is directly proportional to the quality and intellect of the people that it comprises of. But in your zeal to hire smart people, some of you may end up employing talent that’s smarter than you. That isn’t necessarily a problem, unless of course your team members feel that being led by someone “not as smart” isn’t what they’d like.

    So then the problem becomes a real challenge for you as a manager. You’ll have a hard time getting them to follow you, take your leadership seriously and to even respect you. How do you lead such a team without letting them go? Here are a few tips on how to lead and manage individuals who are smarter than you.

    Be A Coach

    Think of the talent and amazing gameplay that Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi bring to the field. Do you think any of their coaches have ever felt they are mildly better than these two superstars? Or thought to themselves what more could they possibly teach them? Sure both of these footballers are super talents and the best in the world. But they too need to be coached. They too need to learn how to harness their skills and align it with the team. And that’s what your role as a manager is. Sure your team may have a few individuals who are smarter than you, but they need a coach just as much as Ronaldo and Messi.

    Master Your Domain

    There’s a good chance that you’ve been hired in your current role for a specific skill or experience. You might be the business owner and so you’re leading the company. Either way, you’re in your position for a specific purpose – to lead the team. You may not have the technical know-how or in-depth understanding of how things work, and you’re not supposed to know it. In every team there are specialists who contribute to the overall success. Every member has is expected to play their role and use their skills and abilities in the team’s success. There’d be chaos if everyone did each other’s jobs. Think of a cricket team where there are specialist bowlers and batters. The captain has his/her own skills and expertise (either with the bat or the ball), but overall his/her role is to utilize their team members’ skills in a way that steers them towards victory.

    Harness Their Strengths

    Instead of letting smarter people frustrate you because of your lack of knowledge or understanding, leverage it to your benefit. Your years of experience in leading teams, managing performance and strategizing is what your role is as a manager. You’re not here to ‘do’ things. Ask questions (and ask a lot of them) so you can learn and have a better understanding of things. With the feedback and learning you get you’ll be in a stronger position to lead the team, manage their output and achieve goals.

    Lead With A Soft Touch

    It’s probably not the best idea to give your team technical feedback since it probably isn’t your area of expertise. Hence, you can throw out any form of micromanaging you had in mind (which you shouldn’t be involved in anyway). Instead, give them the space they need to be creative without the constant nagging and watching over. Let them fly on their own so that they can innovate. However, what you don’t want to do is alienate them. Watch over their progress periodically and ask for updates. After all, you do have to report back to the management or other stakeholders. Talk to them, counsel and coach them. Ask them what they need to be able to achieve their goals. The idea is to be there for them without encroaching.

    As a leader your primary role is to act as a facilitator for your team. That means you’re working to ensure your team has the right resources, connections and knowledge to be able to produce results and achieve successes. It also means you’re removing distractions, noise, bureaucracy and hindrances that can prevent them from exploiting their true creativity and potential. Rather than letting their (or your) ego create friction just because they’re smarter than you, focus on facilitating their success and growth.

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    Author: Paul Keijzer

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