The best leaders recognise the fact that they are not experts at absolutely everything.
In studying the examples of leaders in various roles (government, industry, community) over time, one thing becomes abundantly clear: great leaders build a support team of experts in various fields that is available to supplement their own knowledge and skills.
Among leaders, it’s a common desire to do everything yourself. One strongly held belief that is widespread is the seeming truism: if you want something done well, do it yourself. However, this can be harmful to an organisation in general, and to its leader specifically, if such a tenet is permitted to remain.
FACT: No one can do everything himself.
FACT: No one is an expert at everything.
And a leader who relies solely on her own skills and her own opinions is likely to fail. There is just too much information to know, too many skills that need to be learned, for one single person to be standing alone at the top of the company.
Great leaders know that no one can stand alone.
Leaders need internal support
Smart leaders will cultivate the experts among their employees and groom them to be capable partners. There is a reason why successful companies segregate roles at the second-highest levels of management. You will need a financial expert to handle all of the company’s transactions, an informations expert to deal with your technical systems, a human resources expert for your hiring, termination and benefits needs.
If you’re leading an entire company, you need to know something about all of these fields, but not everything. You can rely on your subordinates to have the specialised knowledge and skills that are required for them to perform their functions within the company. In the meantime, you have the knowledge to lead and oversee them, and to encourage them to bring all of their experience to benefit your team.
Leaders also need external support
Outside of your business, you should form a network of peers. This may sound counter-intuitive, but you should not view the other leaders in your industry as simply your competition. This belief eliminates far too many opportunities.
When you meet someone who is also in your industry, assess them for their skills and knowledge. Do they do exactly what your company does, or do they offer a different service?
Seek out leaders in businesses that are complementary to yours. We are a wealth management company, and part of our business includes offering our clients advice about their insurance needs. However, we are not insurance experts. So we can refer our clients to colleagues who are, who can offer the more specialised expertise that our clients need.
Network and refer
You can start by defining your expertise and skills, and by establishing your own target market. Once you acknowledge that you cannot know and do everything, you can then determine which targets you can service and which you cannot. And, consequently, which targets you cannot or do not wish to cover.
There are other wealth management companies that deal with clients that are smaller than ours, or other financial advisers that might offer expertise in a field in which our clients are interested, but in which we do not offer, such as commodity trading. Do not hesitate to assemble outside teams, even if they are peers, to whom you can refer clients. In return, they will send their clients to you when you can satisfy their deficiencies.
Your networking attempts need to come from a sincere desire to help others succeed as well as for your own success, or else the other people will know and will not respond well. Make sure that you motivate people to help you out of a sense of friendship and trust, not from obligation or fear, for the most secure and stable partnerships.
When you open up to your peers, instead of eyeing them with the suspicion that they are out to steal your clients, you will find that opportunities for learning and sharing will appear as if out of thin air.
Finn Kelly is the CEO and co-founder of award-winning Gen Y financial advisory firm, Wealth Enhancers, along with the parent company, premier private wealth management firm WE Private.