Why Leaders Shouldn't Be the Smartest Ones in the Room

Judy Cohen, VP Manufacturing Operations at Braeburn speaks to why leaders don't need to know it all
Industry Matters Newsletter
Leadership concept
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As a leader, you don’t have to know it all. What you need to do is surround yourself with a diverse team which has the knowledge needed for success. As Steve Jobs said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Good leaders surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are. As a leader you should recognize that you want the most knowledgeable and innovative people on your team in order to build something great. And if they happen to be more knowledgeable than you, that’s okay! That’s because as a leader your job is to help influence and empower the team because you recognize success comes from the team’s belief in the vision and a strong attachment to purpose.

And while this seems quite simple, it amazes me how many leaders get this wrong or are unaware of this critical concept. Perhaps it is understandable as leaders often transition from being the subject matter expert – and caring so much about that – to being a leader who now must focus on how to get a positive outcome from the team.

So, as you develop your leadership style, keep this important lesson in mind. As Confucius said, “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.” 


Judy Cohen, Vice President Manufacturing Operations, Braeburn
Judy Cohen, Vice President Manufacturing Operations, Braeburn

Judy is currently the Vice President Manufacturing Operations at Braeburn, a company committed to transforming the treatment of opioid use disorder, responsible for external manufacturing, technical operations, supply chain, and quality activities. She is a proven leader with over 30 years’ experience in development and manufacturing of Pharmaceutical and Medical Device products. She has an extensive background in manufacturing of API, combination, and sterile drug products as well as developing and implementing quality systems. Judy has been integral in the areas of product development/CMC, compliance, and quality leading to the commercialization of over 20 products. Judy joined LLS Health, CDMO Division in 2013 where she rose to Vice President Quality and Regulatory with overall accountability for quality and compliance activities supporting contract drug product manufacturing at the site. Prior to joining LLS Health, Judith held leadership roles for over 23 years at Johnson & Johnson within the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Sectors. Judy earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Delaware and is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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