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Don't be the smartest person in the room.

In the era of digitalization, it is no longer what you know that matters, but what you don't know.

Mudassir Mustafa
Mudassir Mustafa
4 min read
Don't be the smartest person in the room.
Photo by Olav Ahrens Røtne / Unsplash

Table of Contents

In the era of digitalization, it is no longer what you know that matters, but what you don't know.

The era of digitalization has changed the way we think. It is no longer what you know that matters, but what you don't know. The world is changing rapidly and so are the demands of the workforce. It has become increasingly difficult to keep up with the pace of change and this is why many people find themselves in a rut. It's very much okay to stay grounded and humble - strong leaders are always humble. You need to have the ability to learn new things and determine what's the right question to ask.  

Listen to Learn and Learn to Listen

In a world where we are constantly surrounded by smart people, it is easy to feel like we are not good enough. It is important to remember that you don't have to be the smartest person in the room. You just have to be the one who is willing to work hard and make a difference. There is this underline notion that any smart person has all the answers in the world. Even though it's not talked about but thats accepted like it's a fact. Contrarily, people who think they have all the answers tend to listen less. As a leader, you should learn how to listen so you can understand better.

scrabble, scrabble pieces, lettering, letters, wood, scrabble tiles, white background, words, quote, listen, listen more, attend, attentive, mindfulness,
Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Leaders Need to Have All the Answers

Leaders need to have a vision and see the big picture. In order to do this, they need to be able to look into other people’s eyes, learn from their mistakes and use those experiences for the greater good. There is this unrealistic expectation from the leaders that they have to answer everything. Who they should hire or fire, who they should partner up with, which policy is the best for the team, etc. The reality is that no, they are human too. Realistically speaking, No, they shouldn't have all the answers. If a leader thinks he has all the answers, that's flawed. Sometimes, it is better to ask for help and get answers from experts with more knowledge on a given topic.

The goal of leadership seems simple: to get people to do what they need to do to support the mission and the team.

Some leaders feel pressure to know everything about their team and be able to answer any question that might come up. This may make them feel like they are not doing enough for their team or company. The truth is that sometimes all you need is an expert who can answer questions and give you advice as opposed to taking on all of the responsibility yourself.

The path to your answers
Photo by Hadija Saidi / Unsplash

Here's an interesting article I read a while ago where a CEO was hired by Kevin and how he turned out to be the opposite of what a CEO usually looks like - tall, well-groomed, thoughtful, etc. he explained what his CEO's superpower is and how he was amazed at that thought.

You Don’t Always Have to Be the Smartest One in the Room | The Entrepreneur Mind - Buy the book today!
Website of bestselling book “The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs”
Good leaders don't always make the right decisions. They are good at failing and then getting back up. They are good at empowering people and bringing the best out of them. They have egos and self-interests but they are smart enough to prioritize the interest of the company over themselves.  
"Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious—but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves."
Good to Great by Jim Collins

Who to Hire?

This brings us to an interesting point of hiring. If you look around all successful people who have built billion $ businesses globally have surrounded themselves with smart people, who are better at doing something than they are. As a CEO of a company, you might not need to know how to best make technical decisions. And that is okay. You should be looking out to hiring a CTO who is smarter than you. It's your job to hire that person. It's his job to make better technical decisions.  

So be decisive when you need to be, but try not to make decisions until you have to. Assess what is happening to the best of your ability with the information you have, and then make smaller decisions with minimum commitment to move in the direction you most highly suspect is the right one.
Leadership Strategy and Tactics by Jocko Willink


So, the next time you are sitting in a room full of smart people, don't get intimated or start feeling 'imposter syndrome' right away. It was your job to put all those people together in one room and aligned on one single goal.  You have done a great job in doing that. Trust them, let them make decisions, empower them, be supportive of their decisions, appreciate their efforts and let them make mistakes they can learn from. If you are interested in knowing how I do it while building Capabl let's get in touch and I would love to have a coffee while we let our minds wander a little.

Mudassir Mustafa Twitter

I help entrepreneurs and business leaders launch their products and reduce the chaos through building high performance teams and proven product management techniques.