David Krajewski | Crain's Baltimore

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

David Krajewski

Background:  

LifeBridge Health is one of the largest health services providers in Maryland. The organization includes Sinai Hospital, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, ExpressCare Urgent Care Centers and LifeBridge Health & Fitness. LifeBridge Health recently welcomed Springwell, a senior living community, into its family of services.

The Mistake:

Something I used to do a number of years ago was always try and be the smartest guy in the room, instead of just staying silent if the meeting and the agenda is going in the right direction. Years ago, I’d have the inclination as a young executive to want to prove how smart I was, and talk about everything and show I knew more about the topic than anybody else.

It was brought to my attention when I was having a beer with a work colleague one day. He looked at me and said, “You know, when I go into a room with you I’m scared to death of saying anything, because I’m afraid I’ll look stupid.” This guy is really, really bright, and a very good friend of mine. That made me pause and think about things. That’s when I started doing a little bit of self-discovery from that standpoint.

The mistake really was the lack of development of leadership underneath me, and around me — it stymied people’s development. You can actually scare people from talking. They’re afraid if they say something, you may say something that proves them wrong, or show that they’re not as smart as they want to be perceived. It takes the collaboration down a notch or two when you’re doing that to folks.

If people zig instead of zag to score the touchdown, it really doesn’t matter.

The Lesson:

What I’ve learned is you have a lot more ability to influence the organization if, at times, you let other people be the smartest person in the room. Let them carry the ball down the field, as long as they carry it in the right direction, and don’t worry about little deviations. If people zig instead of zag to score the touchdown, it really doesn’t matter.

If you hold back, you see people develop skills, and you see the leadership get stronger in the organization. The more strong leaders we have, the better the organization is going to be.

I notice the same tendency with some younger leaders, and occasionally I’ll say something, but I think it’s better for people to self-discover, instead of being told that they’re doing it. This issue was brought up in a casual manner, by a friend, in an informal setting. If a superior had brought it to my attention as a negative behavior, I probably would have been defensive about it. Hopefully after thinking about it for awhile, it still would have resonated. But I think my initial reaction would be defending the behavior, and justifying and rationalizing it in my head.

It’s also a maturity type of thing. I started to realize that there’s a better way of doing things. As you get a little bit older you tend to like to see other people succeed, and you’re not always trying to be the top dog in the room.

LifeBridge Health is on Twitter at @LBHealth.

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