Dr. Mehmet Oz was recently interviewed by Fortune magazine (Florian, Ellen. “The Best Advice I Ever Got: Dr. Mehmet Oz” 2/27/11, p. 20).  Oz shared the best advice he ever received on leadership.  Oz credits Keith Reemtsma (chairman of the surgery department at Columbia University at the time) as being a great mentor on leadership when Oz was coming to New York.

The most powerful lesson Oz recounts is this:  “The hard part of leadership was keeping smart people from killing each other—you had to make everyone feel special.”

Although this is a hilarious statement, it contains significant, complex truth.

First, smart people by definition have some marvelous ideas and often lots of ambition.  Conflicts are bound to occur.  The wise leader is one who is able to capitalize on the conflict to produce positive leadership lessons for his or her team.  Granted, some situations will be messier than others.  Nevertheless, I have always believed the wise leader will extract value from every situation.

Second, making everyone feel special is an effective way to get the best performance out of your people.  And I don’t mean that to be in a manipulative way either.  Every member of your team is special.  This is also one of the joys of being a leader.  Oz describes how he occasionally would redirect people to help them play to their strengths.  Everyone is not good at everything.  A wise leader will recognize the unique strengths and abilities in each team member.  Each leadership decision will be informed by these insights.

So keep them alive and make them feel special.  Sounds like a good strategy to me.  You won’t have to clean up any carcasses either!

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Tyco Integrated Security at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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