Smartest Person in the Room

I heard a story earlier this week from Patrick Lencioni about a CEO who had flown over to Asia for a conference on economic development.  The CEO was a technology specialist who didn’t get involved or engaged in the conference but was there as part of a marketing strategy.

This CEO had taken his chief information officer with him.  She had a Master’s in economic theory and was absolutely fascinated with the conference since it was exactly in her area of expertise and interest.  She went to the sessions, was engaged in the conversations, and was able to be taught by economists from the region about the specific issues in their focus.

When the CEO and chief information officer got in the taxi on the way to the airport, the chief information officer began to explain to her CEO what was going on in Asia from a macroeconomic standpoint.

The CEO interrupted her, disagreed with her findings and learnings from the conference, and began to lecture her on what was “really going on in the macroeconomics of Asia”.  He had not be involved in the sessions or even been interested in learning from the local economists about the current issues that the economists were facing.

The chief information officer says that was the day when she realized that she would never be smarter than the CEO simply because he was “the CEO”.  He had allowed his education and position to supersede an opportunity to learn from an expert.

All of this stems from a very common disease among intellectuals, lifelong believers, pastors, teachers, anyone and everyone who has been involved in faith and studying for an extended period of time.  It’s the syndrome of believing we are “the smartest person in the room”.

How many times do we assume we are the smartest person in the room?  What level and twisted saturation of pride does it take for us to think this way?  How dare we assume that we have all the answers figured out?!

I’ve seen this in my own life and it has nearly destroyed many opportunities for me to grow.  I hope I have been cured of it but I won’t assume that’s the case.  As my mom would say, “Beware of the sin you’ve conquered.”

No matter your education, your years of wisdom, your spiritual victories or position of authority or expertise, never assume that you are the smartest person in the room.  God hates arrogance and being “the smartest person in the room” is one of its highest and most twisted forms.

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