Leveraging Collective Wisdom

I learned very early in my career as a leader that I didn't have all the answers. I also learned that being human, I had (sometimes gaping!) holes in my skills and experiences. That's why my priority has always been to recruit and retain talented people who have the skills and experiences that I don't. Andrew Carnegie had inscribed on his tombstone “Here lies a man who knew how to enlist the service of better men than himself.” If this is true of Andrew Carnegie, how much more true is it of you and me!

I try to surround myself with bright, talented people—people smarter people than me (granted, in my case that's not so hard!)—and maximize their collective talents. Many leaders surround themselves with people just like themselves. Perhaps it's because this makes them comfortable. Maybe it's because they like people with the same qualities they possess. Whatever the reason, it is a mistake. I once worked with a very bright and talented executive who was a tremendous speaker and salesman. He had a silver tongue and his focus and success were based on his talent in selling ideas and stories. Unfortunately, he surrounded himself with other talented salespeople but no one who could actually execute! The group had wonderful ideas and plans but nothing ever got delivered.

I draw from the people on my team to give me ideas on how we should do things. I know I am in trouble when everyone agrees with me! The higher a leader rises in an organization, the more he ...

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