When you’re in an entry level role, your personal success at that role is largely in your hands.  But, when you’re in a leadership role, your personal success is highly dependent upon the people you manage.

There’s no doubt that good leaders can mentor and motivate people with ordinary skill levels to produce extraordinary results.  And there’s no doubt that bad leaders can demotivate extraordinary people to produce ordinary results.

Obviously, the more extraordinary people a leader has at his/her disposal, the greater the likelihood of those people producing extraordinary results.

But, strangely enough, not all leaders want the most extraordinary people on their teams.  I’ve seen enough of certain behavior – in business in general and even in procurement – to declare that there is a true phobia from which some leaders suffer.

That phobia is a leader’s fear of not being the smartest person on his/her team.  So, they hire dimmer bulbs for their chandeliers.  And some of them even marginalize the brighter team members that they inherit.

Let’s give this phobia a name.  How about “bright bulb phobia?”

As someone who has been a leader in the corporate world as well as an entrepreneur, I hate that bright bulb phobia exists.  How people with bright bulb phobia get hired or promoted into leadership roles, I have no idea.

I mean, when I’ve grown a company that I’ve founded, I always wanted people who are better than me at what I’ve hired them to do.  I might be good at marketing, but if I hire a marketing manager, I want them to be a better marketer than me.  I might be good at programming, but if I hire a programmer, I want them to be a better programmer than me.

I might be good at negotiation.  And, if I was a procurement director today and had to hire a buyer, I’d want to hire a buyer who was a better negotiator than me.

If my success is reflected by the effectiveness of the people who report to me, I want the best people.  I don’t have an ego where I need to feel smart by only having lower-IQ people below me on the org chart.  Neither should anyone in a procurement leadership position.

Think about it this way…If you were a military leader, would you only want soldiers on your squad if they were not as good at shooting rifles as you?  Heck no!  You’d want the best sharpshooters around.  Having bright bulb phobia could mean your death!

So, if you’re in a leadership position – especially in procurement – I encourage you to decide not to have bright bulb phobia.  It can only limit your success.  You might not be the best negotiator, customer advocate, or analyst on your team.  But you might have the highest-performing team possible.  And, as a leader, that should be your #1 objective – not getting the ego stroke of being smarter than your subordinates.

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is the Founder of the Next Level Purchasing Association. Charles is also the Co-Author of "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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