What Do You Know?
Recently a friend of mine hopped on Facebook and asked his friends to recommend a local carpet-cleaning company and a moving company. (There must be a good story there, but that’s not why I bring it up.)
Within an hour he had several solid recommendations with one moving company clearly favored above any other.
What’s that got to do with smarter leadership?
All of Us Are (Usually) Smarter Than One of Us
Crowdsourcing has demonstrated this truth in many ways. From Wikipedia to finding untapped veins of ore to locating a good moving company, the reality of collective intelligence is hard to ignore.
The most knowledgeable, super-intelligent person on earth still only knows an infinitesimal amount compared to the sum of human knowledge.
If you want to be a smarter leader:
Stop trying to make all the decisions on your own and tap into the power of your team.
The people with the most up-to-date knowledge for whatever your organization does are not the managers – they are the people doing the work.
If you’re leading like you know more than your team, you’re not only irritating your people, you’re also missing out on a huge pool of essential knowledge.
There is a caveat, however – that’s why I say “usually” smarter and it is also the reason leadership is still important.
Leadership In the Era of Crowdsourcing
While groups can be smarter than individuals, crowds can also be pretty dumb.
That’s why your leadership is critical.
That job is not to be smarter than everyone and make all the decisions.
Your role as a leader is to help the team make the best decisions.
In the era of crowdsourcing and the reality that your front-line people have unique and vital knowledge, you help your team make the best decisions by:
- Studying the environment – Your team has its unique knowledge. You also need to bring unique knowledge – the awareness of what is going on in the rest of the world that is relevant to your team. Part of your responsibility as a leader is to look outside your organization and pay attention to what is going on out there.
- Asking the right questions – Forget having all the answers. You’ll be far wiser and make better decisions if you’re asking good questions. Questions about what is possible, why things are the way they are, and how to get from the present to the possible future.
- Making solution criteria clear – What conditions must a solution satisfy? People can be incredibly creative and smart if the essential boundaries are defined. That’s part of your job.
- Helping teams decide – be clear about how the decision is to be made and in what time frame. If you will make the final decision after getting everyone’s input, be clear about that from the beginning. Once decisions are made, ensure everyone knows who is doing what, by when, and how others will know its been done.
- Helping teams to act – Once the decision is made, help them to act on it. Get them the training and equipment they need. Help resolve conflicts. Keep the vision and criteria in front of everyone. Hold everyone accountable for their commitments and celebrate success.
As a leader, you help “all of us” to be smarter than “one of us”.
And if you’ll do it, that makes you smarter than you were three minutes ago!
David M. Dye
(Photo by Stuart Richards)
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I share twenty years experience teaching, coaching, leading, and managing in youth service, education advocacy, city governance, and faith-based nonprofits. I currently serve as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift and enjoy helping others discover and realize their own potential.