Recently, I heard the comment, “I don’t think she’s that smart or has the expertise for her role.”
The comment screamed bias for privileged intelligence and the inability to appreciate diverse intelligences; the speaker’s definition of intellect was severely limited. I believe these types of comments reflect an individual’s lack of meta recognition—the ability to appreciate others’ competencies and their drive to appear smarter than the people around them.
The end game is not believing you’re the smartest person in the room. Someone experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect (overestimating what they actually know) can potentially create disastrous directions and is a threat to successful outcomes. It can dismantle a safe space for healthy challenges and courageous conversations. Teammates who battle imposter syndrome (underestimating what they actually know) can potentially shrink. The Dunning-Krugers appear highly competent and are persuasive, due to their overconfidence, and the Imposter Syndromes shrink to avoid exposure and risk. This can create a perfect storm for lost opportunity and invaluable contributions.
EVERYONE EXHIBITS INTELLIGENCE
There are many competencies that fuel success and achievements. I believe the key is elevating leaders who foster an inclusive environment that embraces diverse intelligences and their intersection, nurtures individuals’ potential, and achieves peak outcomes.
Howard Gardner, author of Frames of Mind, states there are seven types of intelligences: linguistic, musical, mathematical/logical, interpersonal/intrapersonal, spatial, and bodily/kinesthetic. Distinct and diverse intelligences are defined by one criterion: the ability to find and solve problems.
Mathematical/logical intelligence has, historically, been considered a privileged intelligence based on its criticality to solve world challenges. However, it doesn’t solve everything. Think about bodily/kinesthetic intelligence, and a surgeon’s distinct intellect for precise bodily tasks.
But, what about the other seven?
Linguistic intelligence—a high awareness of language—can be the springboard to successfully propelling change with the ability to provide context, inform, and influence. Intrapersonal intelligence (knowing yourself) can help drive growth mindset, while interpersonal intelligence (knowing others) can help navigate moods, temperaments, and motivations. I believe both are vital to impactful leadership, creating conditions for success where teams can thrive.
Considering intellect more broadly and harmoniously merging competencies to defined outcomes can help you capitalize on your team’s inherent potential. Accelerating inherent competencies (genetically dispositioned for certain talents) through innovative learning approaches can upskill and heighten intellect. Or you can simply stretch opportunities, with the support of transformational and inspirational leadership, to help truly enrich an employee’s potential, raise the performance bar, and close knowledge gaps.
CULTIVATING A CULTURE OF CROWDSOURCING
Seeking and embracing diverse intellects, while dismantling a culture of bias for privileged intellect, can not only achieve the art of the possible, but can also create a community of belonging.
According to the World Economic Forum, “There are over 180 cognitive biases that interfere with how we process data, think critically, and perceive reality.” Biases can prohibit a growth mindset of intellectual humility, curiosity, and discovery. With the Dunning-Kruger effect, confidence exceeds competence and there is a lack of self-awareness that creates blind spots of knowledge and opinions. There’s a false confidence in judgement, and it can prevent embracing diverse thoughts, perspectives, experiences, and skill sets.
Interestingly, in my experience, imposter syndrome—where competence exceeds confidence—is far less threatening to successful outcomes. Why? Imposter syndrome can motivate individuals to work harder as they constantly rethink and question assumptions. They often seek insight from others and thrive on growth resulting from self-doubt.
The ability to appreciate diverse intelligences and practice humble confidence can create effective teams. A leader who has confidence in their ability, but acknowledges they may not have all the answers, can foster a more inclusive environment. In this environment, intelligences can intersect, individuals’ potential can be heightened, and peak outcomes can be achieved. Most importantly, every team member can feel valued and have a sense of belonging.
Britton Bloch is the Vice President of Talent Acquisition Strategy at Navy Federal Credit Union.