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It’s Teamwork — After All

You are a leader. You are (let’s assume) the most senior and experienced member of your team. When making decisions, how often do you tap into the insights and ideas of other members of your team? How often do you go it alone?

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Now, let’s look at the flip side. You’re part of a team. The team leader — your manager, perhaps — has made a decision that appears to be a bad decision. Should you speak up? Should you speak up if your teammates all keep quiet?

Robert B. Cialdini, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, answers the questions in his article, “The Perils of Being the Best and the Brightest.” In an excerpt, Cialdini says leaders should listen to their team members for two reasons: One, leaders can draw on the team’s diverse knowledge and experience. Two, they can also be inspired by discussion among members.

“If you’re the brightest person in the room, you’re in trouble,” Cialdini quotes Nobel Prize-winner James Watson as saying, who together with Francis Crick, unveiled the double-helix structure of DNA. Watson was commenting on a colleague of his, who was so brilliant that she seldom sought advice.

While leaders assume they are the smartest person in their company or division, team members may very well shut up and duck the responsibility of making sure the group is the on the right track, Cialdini says. He calls this mentality “captainitis.”

What do you think? Do you — or does your organization or team — suffer from captainitis?

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