“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.” This quote, and many variations of it, have been attributed to various leaders pointing at the importance of surrounding themselves with people who are more intelligent than they are. — or, in some regards, challenge you to “level up.”
I get the most pleasure from making new connections that teach me something I don’t know. I intentionally surround myself with smart people who bring substance and context. As a heart-centric entrepreneur, I have never had formal training in being an intelligent person, but it’s the practical experiences that I have had that contribute to my ongoing success.
It takes a lot of confidence to choose people to work with or for you that are smarter than you. Taking this bold move secures people in who they are and the position they hold. Having never worked for anyone else, I have no idea what it means to climb the corporate ladder or compete for a leadership role. As a leader, I have always put the needs of my employees first and foremost. Whenever they needed support, it was my job to make sure they had it. This is part of my DNA.
Believing that you’re more intelligent than others is a dangerous game. The risk is you’re more prone to dismissing others’ ideas quickly and pursuing your own agenda based on the false sense of confidence that often accompanies smart people. Additionally, individuals who believe they are more intelligent than others tend to struggle with delegation because they believe no one will do the job as well as they can.
Leaders are less likely to choose a transformational or instrumental leadership approach than other styles. But it is hypothesized that being the smartest person in the room can mean you struggle to understand others’ challenges. Additionally, it’s possible that leaders lack the communication skills necessary to convey a vision that will inspire and engage others.
Clearly, it takes more than intelligence to be successful as a leader. Perhaps instead of working to be the smartest or best person in the room, it is smarter to focus on becoming a better version of yourself.
Author: Janice Cardinale has been named a Woman to Watch, a Top 100 Entrepreneur by Smart Meetings magazine and a powerful woman by Reiimagine in 2022. She is a heart-centric leader, visionary, mentor, and change maker. As an editor, facilitator, and speaker, she talks about mental health and is leading the newly formed EVENT MINDS matter, a community for event professionals, building brave spaces to amplify the industry’s conversation on mental health. She is the board chair for Seneca College’s event management and creative design program and has opened up her own charity under the name of “Giving Butterflies.” Janice is passionate about global trends, human connection, and the future of events and people.