The Best of the Best of the Best

Talking with someone recently, I heard him ask “wouldn’t you expect your boss to be the best in the firm at what you do?”

Um, no. Personally, I’d expect that I’M the best in the firm at what I do. But that says more about my ego and ambition than my boss’ abilities.

My real answer, though, is that I do not necessarily want a leader who’s the best possible designer/consultant/copywriter/whatever. Instead, I want a leader who is the best possible leader.

This raised a good question: do you have to be more skilled than your employees in order to be their leader? My answer to that would be “no.”

For one thing, saying who is “the best” at a particular role is a tricky proposition. How do you measure that? It is tough to find a way everyone agrees upon. Maybe you can divide people into “talented” and “untalented,” but even that is an opinion. So don’t worry about being “the best” because that’s somewhat out of your control.

Another thing to consider is, if your technical skill was your greatest talent, then maybe you should be doing that instead of being a leader. You need to think about where you will add the most value to the organization, and if you can do things that no one else can do, well then, maybe you need to be doing them and let someone else be the leader.

Of course, even though you do not have to be the top in your field, it helps to have some talent. You need to understand the requirements and capabilities of your employees, and if you are going to evaluate them you need to understand what they do.

One reason that people suggest the leader should be the best of the bunch is that they say it is the way you will get respect from your employees. They will look up to you because of your talent, or so goes the theory. But if they are getting walked on by upper management while you are off doing better work than them and making them look bad in comparison, then respect is going to be hard to come by. What they will really respect you for is being the best possible leader, who motivates them, protects them, and draws out their own best effort.

And after all, isn’t that what you’re getting paid to do?

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