Jay-Z recently became hip-hop's first billionaire. Although he rose to fame for his music, he created his fortune by expanding and diversifying his business interests across a range of industries.
“In decades past, some would have called Jay-Z a ‘jack of all trades, master of none,’” said Jason Wingard, the dean of Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies. “But the reality is Carter’s success likely stemmed from this very ability: to combine a specialty in entertainment with a strong platform of general business and leadership skills.”
Jay-Z is an example of a T-shaped person. The term was first derived by IDEO CEO Tim Brown. The vertical stroke of the “T” illustrates a depth of skill, and the horizontal stroke demonstrates the disposition for collaboration across disciplines.
Here are three reasons leaders should consider mirroring Jay-Z and master the balance between specialization and generalization to become more T-shaped.
It Widens Career Opportunities
In a study discussed in the Harvard Business Review, professors analyzed the records of hundreds of MBA graduates pursuing careers in investment banking. They discovered those who had specialized in investment banking through previous jobs and internships were less likely to receive multiple job offers than students who had broader backgrounds and experiences.
It Enhances Innovation
Research has shown that team diversity can lead to greater innovation, so it is logical to assume diverse experiences could prove beneficial on an individual level as well. A range of experiences allows people to think more expansively about their resources, leading to more divergent ways of approaching problems.
It Improves Leadership Quality
Though some would argue leaders need generalist qualities, such as emotional intelligence and the ability to think critically, leaders must also have some area of special knowledge and expertise that confers legitimacy. Those who also have specialized knowledge and develop skills both broadly and deeply will rise to the top.