If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room!

As a student of the fire service few things speak to me more than this quote from an unknown author… “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room!”

I mean this more figuratively than literally. If you are the senior man on the company, you probably have a plethora of knowledge and experience. Its possible that you even have more time on the firehouse crapper than your officer has on the job. Does this make you the smartest person in the room? I sincerely hope not. I hope you open your mind to the idea that everyone brings something to the table and therefore presents an opportunity for you to learn.

Many people hold the idea that knowledge is power. In the realm of leadership, the official term is “expert power”. Some “leaders” try to retain that power rather than using it to empower their people. Many people feel that if they share their “power” they will lose it.

There are still others who feel threatened by reaching out to subject matter experts to collaborate on or teach a class. They somehow feel they threatened that they may not know something. One of the most important lessons (in my opinion) that I teach new firefighters is that it is ok to say I don’t know or let me look that up. The last thing I want is for one of my guys’ pit bull mouth to overload their hummingbird butt so to speak!

As a company officer and leader I have always held that I want to teach anyone who works with me everything I know. If I teach them everything I know and they go off and learn just one more thing, they are now smarter than me and I am no longer the smartest person in the room! By empowering my people with knowledge, selfishly I now have the opportunity to learn something new. Also selfishly, I now have an additional set of eyes that better than mine; not only are they capable of looking after themselves but they are also capable of looking after me!

About Jon Misewicz 13 Articles
A 17-year student of the fire service, Jon most recently served 8 years with the Memphis (TN) Fire Department as a Firefighter / Paramedic and Instructor. He is completing a Master's Degree in Education. His passion is training that translates knowledge to real world applications.