Those you surround yourself with will determine how far you are going to get in life, leadership and business. Many leaders limit themselves today, because of the kind of people they have chosen to surround themselves with; people who bring them down, not lift them higher. Your association is everything when it comes to success in every sphere of life, especially leadership.
Booker T. Washington said, “Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” There is absolutely a limit to what a leader can achieve alone. He needs to always be in the company of high quality people. Also, it is suicide for a leader to surround himself with bad people. When a leader dwells amongst people of good quality, there is nothing he cannot achieve in leadership.
Quick-witted and high quality people are naturally curious and they want to know why situations develop in the way they do. They are usually not content until they have solved nagging problems, and will miss meals, work late and refuse to give up until they do. They tend to have good relationships at work, because they believe that bickering, rudeness and aggression are all a waste of time and energy.
Why do most leaders in this clime lose clever people? They detest people who are curious. They only like those who swallow everything they say and do—hook, line and sinker. Those who ask questions are usually seen as proud folks. In Nigeria, followers do not ask leaders question, even when they do not understand what their leaders are either doing or saying. They are expected to be led like a sheep being led to the slaughter and they are not supposed to open their mouth to say even a word. This is one of the major reasons why many leaders are lone rangers in Nigeria and on this continent.
There are things that astute and high-quality people do that leaders who know their onions cannot afford to be without. First, you can count on them to think of new ideas for everyone on the team. Those who question the status-quo do usually come up with new ideas. And they are usually not content with what is because of what can be; so leaders who are content with what is cannot have them on their team. Leaders who are not driven with what can be usually cannot stand smart people.
Also, sharp-witted people can make everyone else look good. They understand team strategy and take action before being asked. This is useful when they address details you forgot and solve problems without your having to ask. They know what is expected of them and they get it done without being asked. Mediocre leaders usually do not like smart and intelligent people, because they like to tell people within their spheres of influence what to do and how to do it. It will shock you that many leaders on this continent are fond of employing mediocre people and take pleasure in rejecting smart people, because nimble-witted people get the job done without being asked to get it done.
Additionally, they also like to raise the bar. A single nimble-witted person forces everyone else to raise their standards. Again, this may be annoying if these ideas disrupt long-established routines with ideas that suggest higher standards. But when they point out inefficiencies, everyone on the team usually does feel forced to improve. This is a good thing for leaders who are not threatened by them.
Bright people usually do take the extra advantage. They usually know how to discover the advantages and benefits that would enable your team to beat the competition. It is amazing how they look at the same blank wall as everyone else, then effortlessly see a door and open it. Sharp people are unusually gifted people. They can see money where others see mere problems. Leaders who surround themselves with smart people usually do not struggle before getting results.
Clever people also make other people (insecure leaders usually cannot stand them) look smarter because their creative ideas, insights and behavior have a positive impact. Seeing the world through their eyes is to gain a bigger perspective. Can you see that wise leaders cannot do without smart people? Now, what should be one of the roles of leaders who want to be successful? They are supposed to encourage others (other people who are within their spheres of influence) to be smart too. They are to start by looking at the strengths and weaknesses of their existing team members. Remember, when given a chance to develop, many people become smarter with encouragement and the right training. This works better if there is a specific job they can train to do, or a complex problem that needs to be solved right away. If they have no experience at doing this new work, then you can organize the job into smaller steps that they can take forward.
How can you attract nimble-witted people to your team? A big draw to any team is how it is led. Smart people will endure all kinds of hardship if they believe they are learning, are respected and have an inspiring leader. However, they are also the first to leave when they believe that the hardship is the result of poor leadership. Their smartness tells them that things will only get worse. So you can begin to attract great people by being a great leader.
Another step is to ensure that you recruit your team with different perspectives from yourself. This helps to balance the team to achieve the set goals. You can also encourage people to extend their abilities. If they are action oriented, you can give them work that requires skills from the thinking category. However, this cannot be forced and training is likely to be required to ensure that they have a chance of success.
How can you keep bright people you already have as a leader? Like migrating birds, smart people readily take off somewhere better if they find their stopover is unpleasant, but they linger if they like where they have landed. I advise that you create the right environment so you may keep (on your team) the smartest for longer than is usual.
See you where successful leaders are found!