How well do you lead your Smart people?


It’s not very unusual that the leader has to coach, mentor, influence, monitor and direct people wh are experts in their own areas. It is impossible for the leader to know the technical aspects of the subject matter and hence, there is no way that the leader can solve technical challenges that confront the team. So, what does one do? How can one add value to the team who is being led? Would lack of knowledge and expertise in the subject weaken the boss and the positioning? Would ‘putting the best foot forward’ appear as over-confidence and arrogance? Undoubtedly, there are several questions that need to be answered!

First and foremost, the leader has to show empathy without feeling insecure or vulnerable due to the lack of knowledge in the subject. A CEO cannot be an expert in HR, Finance, IT, Marketing, Design, Procurement, Manufacturing, Planning …. Still, the teams and the functions have to be led to produce the value that all stakeholders expect out of the business. One has to accept the fact that the role of the leader is not to provide technical solution to all the issues and challenges in each area. The leader must have the humility to be curious and engage in a conversation with others in a respectful manner. People observe the way in which the boss addresses an issue or a topic. This sets the tone in the organization, especially for the smart people. This tells them how valued they are for the organization and what support they can expect of others outside their own team.

Secondly, experts and especially the smart people expect a lot of freedom and independence. So, the leader has to be sensitive to the needs of such people and give them the confidence that they are trusted for what they bring to the table. Rupturing the trust brings an end to the passion and commitment of the team. So, it’s very important that the leader lets the team feel trusted while accountability to deliver results is held firm. At times, the leader doesn’t find it very comfortable to engage in a meaningful conversation with the team because the subject matter is very specialized. In such situations, extreme freedom might have been granted but the team feels isolated and orphaned. Hence, the picture of success needs to be articulated clearly by the leader and the accountability is held firmly.


Last, but not the least, the leader needs to bring in the right mix of IQ and EQ for the team to fel proud of who is leading them. The IQ part instils confidence in the team that their work and the impact is understood and appreciated by the boss. Further, the EQ part helps the boss connecting with the team, keeping pace with them, helping them adjust the pace, rewarding them and so on. The teams, especially in large organzations can suffer from silo-based working and hence, experience estrangement from the larger purpose of the enterprise. The leader can get the smart folks aligned on the same page only by the right combination of IQ and EQ.

Sounds simple? Hard to practice each day. Hence, a great leader is so rare!

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