Smart Leadership

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Few things in leadership are as misunderstood as the concept of “smart.” For most organizations, especially the large and supposedly sophisticated ones, smart usually equates to I.Q. points. More specifically, analytical I.Q. The kind that inspires awe with the savant-like ability to crunch numbers in real time, on the fly. Somehow this measure of smart has become one of the most important criteria for selecting CEOs and other senior leaders. Let’s call them analytical leaders, and then let’s reconsider.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Every organization needs brilliant analytical thinkers…as engineers, research scientists, financial analysts and the like. Disciplines where analytical brilliance is the difference between success and failure, with significant consequences at stake. But the problem with so many brilliant analytical thinkers is their inability to leverage their brilliance through others.

Now I know that there are exceptions to every rule and that there are analytical savants with the ability to lead with passion. But they are the exception to the rule. More often than not, they struggle to relate to others who are not as gifted as they are (which is just about everyone else) and as a result their leadership is not accretive to the organization.

Smart leaders do not need to have the highest analytical I.Q. What makes them smart is their ability to inspire others around them, both with and without higher I.Q.s, to do things that they otherwise would or could not do. The ability to see opportunity where others do not, to imagine possibilities where others see roadblocks. To create a crucible for success when the numbers don’t quite add up.

This type of inspiration does not come through analytics. It does not take root in the left hemisphere of our brain. It outgrows a leader’s ability to translate vision into energized action. A vision painted with a vibrant palette of words, images and allegory. The last time I looked, people communicate to one-another with words. Machines use numbers.

Of course a leader needs to understand the power of analytics and the pursuit of measurable results. If they do not, they will not be in position for long. But they don’t lead with the numbers. They lead with people. To lead people requires that you first communicate with them. Inspire them. Challenge them. Now that’s what I call smart.

Matthew Angello is the Founder and Principal of Bright Tree Consulting Group, LLC and a former board-level executive in Fortune 500 companies. He offers highly personalized and effective coaching for individuals seeking to unleash their potential, move their performance to the next level and prepare for future challenges. Visit our website to learn about our services and enjoy our free downloads –

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