Book smarts do not always translate into leadership savvy

Michael Alcorn
Posted 10/31/17

I’m going to do something a little bit risky with this column. No, no — I’m not using it to give relationship advice. I’m not that stupid.

No, I’m going to write about something that is about to happen, but which you will know the …

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Book smarts do not always translate into leadership savvy

Posted

I’m going to do something a little bit risky with this column. No, no — I’m not using it to give relationship advice. I’m not that stupid.

No, I’m going to write about something that is about to happen, but which you will know the result of before you read this column.

But, first, I have to back up a little bit, and build my rationale. I have mentioned before that I am a nerd of the second-highest order. That means that I can actually explain to you the science behind the warp drive engine of the Star Trek universe, but I do not own a Star Trek uniform.

As such, I believe there is incredible wisdom in the world of Star Trek. One of those nuggets is the interesting relationship the first two captains of the milieu had with members of their senior staffs. In particular, the characters of Mr. Spock and of Mr. Data. Spock was (for the uninitiated) a member of the Vulcan race, which, above all else, valued logic and dispassionate analysis.

Data was an android, devoid of emotion, but an exceptionally sophisticated computer. Both of them were, in terms of pure intellect, far superior to the men who were their commanders, but neither of them were promoted to the rank of captain until much later.

See, the smartest guy in the room isn’t always the one you want leading. You definitely want him around, but there are other skill sets involved in leadership.

I think you make the smartest guy your science officer, possibly your second-in-command, but that guy is going to need a lot of experience to add to his algorithms before he’s ready for command.

Which is why I believe after Monday night’s football game between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs, the Broncos will be starting their search for next year’s starting quarterback. Again.

I came to this conclusion after watching the last couple games, and I don’t expect anything to change this week. Literally everybody around the Broncos organization says that Trevor Siemian is a very smart young man with a great demeanor and good physical tools, including incredible toughness. And, yet, the Broncos under his leadership have one of the worst offenses in the League.

Yes, the Broncos have one of the worst offensive lines in the League (good thing he’s tough!), and they haven’t been able to muster a very good game plan for a few weeks now. But, what I believe I saw in the last two games was a unit that has a leadership deficit—it feels like a team that doesn’t have somebody pulling them together, using their best skills, and making them better than they appear to be on paper.

In other words, they have a science officer in command: everything is by the book, the analysis is thorough, but the speed at which things have to happen is too quick for the speed at which command makes decisions, and nobody around him performs better than they’re expected to.

Which pains me to admit. Nobody likes the smartest guy in the room more than I do, and I really was hoping Siemian would be the answer this year. But I’m becoming increasingly skeptical that that’s going to happen.

More importantly, though, it strikes me as an important lesson for every organization: success happens when people are put in positions that best fit their skill sets. Yes, people can grow, and I expect Trevor Siemian will have a long career if he survives this season. But he will have to be surrounded by an experienced, strong-willed team that doesn’t need him to show them the way.

If you’re wondering about your organization, feeling like it’s not getting the results you think it should, look around and ask yourself if you have everybody in the right places. Maybe your team could use a little “skill-set-allocation” tweaking.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com

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