High IQ ≠ Great Leadership

While changing channels I stumbled upon a Discovery show Big Brain Theory.  This show brings engineers together to solve “impossible” engineering challenges.  The contestants split in 2 teams and select 1 leader for each team.  There are judges, and the losing team faces member elimination.  It’s like Biggest Loser but with engineers.

In this particular episode I had the opportunity to contrast a dysfunctional vs. a high performing team.

I’ll comment on the losing team.

This team had 4 people.

  1. Drama Queen: this was a girl that spent the entire challenge complaining about how tough it was to finish the design “agreed” upon.
  2. Cloak Master: this guy spent most of the time looking for excuses to protect himself and blame someone else.  He agreed to anything just to hide behind the leader’s decisions.
  3. The Loner:  this was the inferiority complex guy needing to prove he could do everything alone.  He agreed with the plan only because the leader mentioned he would take the fall if the project failed.
  4. Beginner: the leader in training.  He had an idea and wasn’t going to take no for an answer.  It was passive behavior but you could see he wanted to only follow his plan.

Here’s what happened at judgment time.

  • Drama Queen: complained on how badly were her circumstances because of the design the leader made and she should have never been in that situation.  Blamed it on the leader.
  • Cloak Master: when asked why things failed, he just said “it’s ultimately the leaders fault” and then look down to the floor in hiding.
  • The Loner: he was sent home by the leader in the middle of the challenge because he didn’t want to listen to others. He’s excuse was that he was trying to “politely” tell them he was just trying to finish his part.  The truth was he was just wanted to prove a point at the expense of the team’s success.
  • The Beginner: defended his choices appropriately, and stayed true to his word.  He took the fall.

At the end of the day, these 4 very smart individuals had the ability to solve their problem but couldn’t make it a reality because of their lack of teamwork and leadership.  This team showed all the 5 dysfunctions of a team: invulnerability, artificial harmony, ambiguity, low standards, and ego.

My point is no matter how smart you think you are or how much you know about a subject your success will depend on how well you lead others towards a common goal.

All dysfunctional teams have a drama queen, a loner, a cloak master and a beginner? Which one are you?



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