The smartest person in the room . . .
The Lowe Down Managing Editor
As a teacher you learn a great deal about how everyone tackles problems differently. You learn how they process information, problem solve and make decisions. During live meetings, such as quorum court and city council meetings you observe much of the same processes as each member of the panel takes in information, forms their own opinions and attempts at problem-solving. There are those that ask questions to get more information, some jump right in with a quick analysis, others that sit back and process, there are those who quietly doodle on paper, some that don’t say a word. It’s interesting to see how people react when they face what appears to be dead-end, or an insurmountable problem. Some want to give up, others want to shelf an issue, others want to hit it head-on and others want time to reflect and make a decision. As a popular game show used to say, do they ever “phone a friend”, or acquire an expert opinion on a problem larger than the local knowledge base?
I’ve said many times that part of our problem within our local governments is we rely heavily on our own opinions. We don’t reach out past the city limits or county line for valuable assistance and information. Just because you have taken a bath and had a drink of water doesn’t mean you are an expert on how to set water rates. Believe it or not, there are people who help cities do that very thing. I had this discussion with the CEO of Arkansas Rural Water Association, Dennis Sternberg. He said that in his position he liked to surround himself with people smarter than he is. I asked him if he had ever heard the phrase, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”? The smartest person in the room is the only one in it unable to learn. The best leaders know to not only surround themselves with smart people, but to also seek expert advice when needed.
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