There is a group of people that I refer to as the Smartest People in the Room. These people aren’t necessarily smarter than anyone else (whatever smarter actually means, and contrary to what the label implies). They are simply people with a high degree of brilliance.

The Smartest People in the Room present a unique problem for leadership, both to themselves and to others.

If you’re one of these people, you can almost certainly relate to a number of these experiences:

  • Being in a room and feeling like you’re the smartest one there
  • Finding yourself bored in conversation, and, at times, being deliberately inciting to get a rise out of people.
  • Feeling bad about it after the fact may or may not be part of your tendency
  • Being charming in interactions and conversations, yet finding them empty and draining
  • Experience a high-degree of success and an equal and opposite lack of fulfillment
  •  Learn things quickly, and struggle to have patience with those that don’t

There are more tendencies of the Smartest Person in the Room, but you can already start to see yourself in this group if you fit the bill.

Leadership for you is a tricky subject. You tend naturally to rise into the role of leader, due to the traits listed above. You’re superficially charming, care about people, can see a few steps ahead of the pack, and have the problem half-solved before the group is even fully formed.

People naturally tend to look to you for leadership, and you tend to look to step into it. Sometimes you take that step begrudgingly, but you also know that you’re going to have a hard time trusting anyone else’s leadership, and so if not you, who?

While you are a natural fit for the role or position of leadership, the kind of leader that you be tends to be one that creates more followers rather than more leaders.

You pick things up quickly, and that makes it a struggle to be around and lead people when they aren’t learning things at the same rate. That goes doubly-so for you. You struggle to … struggle. Relating to picking up something slowly as being stupid, a moron or simply /lesser than/, you have little ability to be in your own struggle.

We project the patterns we run internally out into the world, and so you have only slightly more patience for people in the process of learning than you do for yourself. If this was an attribute in a role-playing game, you would have “Patience for Yourself Learning Something New: -999.99” and “Patience for Others Learning Something New: -999.97”.

(Maybe if you equip a Gauntlet of Leadership?)

You believe you are constantly growing, which is true, but only in the direction where you are already comfortable. Your struggle to allow yourself and others to struggle and look stupid in the learning phase means you train people and yourself to continue developing in the areas where you are already good. You are reliable to deeper mastery in areas that are known, but the end-result tends to be a myopically-focused brand of leadership.

As people will never be as masterful as you in these areas, they are inherently made into followers. They are good at what they do but rely on you to provide them the final touches, always.

The more time you spend with the things that vex you, the more vexing they become.

While learning slowly at first is merely a hindrance, over time it shifts to frustration, anger, and outright hostility. The battle cry of “Morons!” Eventually becomes the ever-present motto that resides in your head. (Metaphorically shaking a fist at the sky is optional.)

Tragically, what has you judge people as morons is just the growth process. Your eventual allergy with the failure that is imbued in learning something new eventually leads to a narrow experience of leadership and life.