“Come on, hasn’t anyone besides Mary done homework?”
In response, there is a long pause and blank stares.
“Okay, Mary, enlighten us.”
Mary’s face beams with confidence: "The capital of Honduras is Tegucigalpa?"
"You are right, Mary; thanks for coming to our rescue once again!"
Most of us can remember the smartest kid in class; that student who always seemed to have the answer, aced the toughest tests, always did the homework, and of course, captured the teacher’s favor. We can remember how this child was practically venerated by some children. She had a magical quality.
Perhaps you were this kid or worked hard to be like her. If so, you may have achieved much success in your life. Your intellect may have been a key factor in your “climb to the top.”
For a business leader, however, being “the smartest kid in the class” and attempting to come up with all the solutions is a recipe for failure. Perhaps you've been in meetings where a top executive strains mightily to demonstrate that he has all the answers. This executive believes that this behavior validates his position: “I’m the top guy; I am expected to have the answers.”
Unfortunately, this conduct often has the opposite effect; it can make the leader look weak and insecure. Leading through others implies an ability to subordinate your ego to the larger group. It means controlling inherent primitive and competitive impulses, like the desire to prove your worth.
As a leader, your job is to create an environment that encourages and supports problem-solving. By asking insightful questions, challenging the team to be honest, and setting the pace through careful listening, you are developing future leaders; you are leading. Most importantly, you will end up with the best answers.