When clients describe the leader they want me to coach, they invariable use the word “smart” or “genius.” Assuming your leaders really are smart, do they also bring out the best in others? If your employees were both intellectually gifted and effective managers, your employer should be outmaneuvering competitors. Is that consistently happening? The late Stephen Covey succinctly put his finger on the conundrum:
Some corporations have made hiring the most intelligent individuals a core strategy on the basis that smarter people can solve problems more quickly than the competition. But that only works if the organizations can access that intelligence.
According to surveys on engagement, most workers have greater capabilities, creativity, talent, initiative and resourcefulness than their jobs allow—or even require—them to use.
Other surveys reveal that many workers feel stressed to produce more with less.
These results are paradoxical: People are underutilized and overworked at the same time.
Fortunately, some leaders understand how to create genius within their teams: They bring out the best in people. They’re “genius-makers.”
Many bosses, however, seem to excel at draining people of their intelligence and abilities.
Management guru Peter Drucker predicted the challenge of managing knowledge workers:
The most valuable assets of the 20th-century company were its production equipment. The most valuable asset of a 21st-century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.
For the most part, leaders are highly intelligent and capable professionals—traits that facilitate their promotion up the managerial chain. They usually appear smarter than their colleagues. So, how does one successfully make the shift from genius to genius-maker? It’s during this transition that I’m often called in. Among the many resources I’ve turn to is a book written by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter (HarperBusiness, 2010).
They conclude that some bosses make us better and smarter by eliciting and revitalizing our intelligence. Others seem to stifle intelligence and capability, always wanting to be seen as the smartest person in the room (reminds me of Enron). They suck the energy out of the team, whose members end up looking or feeling dumb. IQs seem to drop, creativity is squelched and meeting times often double.
Have you ever worked for a boss like this? In the work I do coaching executives [JMCohenAssoc.com], I hear some pretty horrific stories. I’d love to hear your experiences. Leave a comment!
The first of four planned blogs on the subject