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Episode 7: What If They Know More Than You?

Feb 08, 2022

"How do I lead someone that has more expert knowledge than me, they are used to leading others -- maybe they have even done my job before -- and now I have to give them direction and figure out what I can offer them? What should my approach be?"

What an awesome opportunity for you as a leader to have people on your team who are smarter than you. That’s a great problem to have . . . but I know it can also present some challenges as you lead.

Let’s peel back some of these layers….starting with this question: Are you ready?

What Makes A Leader Great?

What have you noticed in other great leaders that grabs your attention and says, “That’s the secret sauce, right there!” I have a little exercise for you right now. 

STEP 1: Think back to a great leader in your own life, what are 3 qualities would you call out? Being able to articulate three qualities that matter to YOU will tell you a lot about how you like to lead and what approach you are naturally inclined to use.

STEP 2: Think about the person you are now leading. What do you think is important for them? If you’re not sure, it’s okay to ask. 

The leader doesn’t need to be the smartest person in the room if they surround themselves with smart people that have the resources and experience needed. While experience is still important, once you know what is a great leader for you and what is a great leader for them …. Then you can start deciding what your approach will be.

Leading from Strengths

You already know that leading is so much more than a position or you wouldn’t be asking the question and you wouldn’t have hired someone who has more experience than you. Leadership is influence and influence flows from doing what you do well and and doing it authentically. 

So, what are your strengths and how can they guide you in leading all kinds of team members no matter their expertise or experience?

Don’t be afraid to dig back into those old assessment tools you have laying around. Then, compare that to your top three qualities you want to shape your leadership approach and pick 1 - 2 things you could do to build your leadership approach based on your strengths. 

Don't Despise Young Wisdom

There’s a possible underlying concern you might have. Let’s see if this resonates. I’ll call it young wisdom versus seasoned wisdom. Seasoned wisdom is for someone with more experience – on the job or in life – seasoned by those experiences and even expertise they may have developed over time. 

This kind of wisdom is even more valuable when paired with what I am currently calling “young wisdom”. It's a wisdom that some possess before all the experience has been added on. You just see things and can speak into them with insight that some would call “beyond your years.” 

It’s easy to overlook the value of this EQUAL pairing between young wisdom and seasoned wisdom. It reminds me of the verse in 1 Timothy 4:12 when Paul, someone with seasoned wisdom, was instructing a young leader, Timothy, who had the young wisdom I’ve been talking about. Paul tells Timothy …

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

You’ve probably heard of mentoring and how powerful it is. Someone who is more seasoned and experienced (like Paul) and can impart wisdom into us as leaders (like Timothy). Well, there’s also this thing you probably haven’t heard as much about, it’s called reverse mentoring. 

What is Reverse Mentoring?

You guessed it – it’s this opportunity for those with young wisdom to speak into the lives and leadership of those with seasoned wisdom. We can benefit from each other and this mutual mentoring can create a powerful synergy that helps you develop your own leadership and invest in the leadership of others around you regardless of their experience or “seasoning”. 

You have a great opportunity to build a team with wisdom and experience that leverages strengths and values each person’s contribution. So, have fun, be you! Know the qualities that are important to you and leverage your strengths to build those qualities into your leadership approach. 

And keep asking questions …

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