Playing Dumb

There's a leadership trend that's taken root over the past several years, particularly among women, that I find disturbing: leaders downplaying their intelligence as though it's some sort of crutch rather than an asset. The disclaimers of, "Now, before you think I'm some sort of egg-head . . ." or the self-effacing, "Aw shucks, I'm no genius, I'm just one of you . . ." are becoming more common.

I'm smart. I want people as smart as or smarter than I am to be leading me. If you're going to call me dumb and then call yourself dumb, you're not someone I want to spend time learning from.

We can't expect perfection in people (it doesn't exist, anyway) but we also shouldn't settle for false modesty. If you're smart, own it. If you're talented, own it. If you're in leadership, own it and accept the responsibility to steward your platform well. 

There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but pretending to be someone or something you're not doesn't empower anyone, including yourself.

True humility doesn't hide its gifts.

(PS: Being smarter doesn't mean better. Beware that ego trap.)

Originally published February 2012