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The Double Edged Sword of being Smart as a Leader

We generally value being smart – whether it’s in an IQ sense, commercial savvy, problem solving abilities or being a fast learner. It’s great when we have smart people in our team, especially when they are willing and able to contribute their best.


When we are the leader of the team, just being smart is not enough. In fact, it can thwart the team if that’s all we have. Here are some challenges when the leader is smart.


  • The team feel intimidated: The smart leader knows all the issues and solutions so the team don’t feel they can contribute any more. They will hold back from speaking up and might even second guess what the leader is thinking to say what the leader wants to hear.
  • The team gets complacent: The team becomes dependent on the leader’s ability to fix all the issues. They will keep coming to the leader for direction, answers, request to fix problems.
  • The team loses confidence: Whatever the team does, it doesn’t seem to be good enough for the leader, because the leader knows better.
  • The team doesn’t feel valued: There is a risk that the smart leader solves issues so quickly in his/her head that he/she doesn’t listen to the team’s ideas. The team doesn’t feel heard or valued.
  • The team feels left behind: It can be difficult for the team to align with the leader’s direction because the smart leader is 5 steps ahead and doesn’t have the patience to help the team to understand and catch up.


This is not to say that we shouldn’t be smart as leaders. Leaders need to build credibility, respect and trust and being smart helps with that. When we step into a leadership role, our job is to grow and inspire smart teams. That’s what gives us leverage as leaders and for the organisation. To develop smart teams it takes more than just being smart on your own as a leader. How much do you inspire your teams to perform at their best? Try out this test to find out.

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