Leadership is a Journey
In a discussion with Greg Faasen who runs an excellent business focussing on teamwork and leadership he made two very telling points:
- Leadership and the skills associated with leadership are a constantly evolving journey for those in leadership positions whether they like it or not, and;
- No team game has ever been won by an individual.
I am sure there will immediately be comments particularly about the second point like:”Ja, but what about Pat Lambie’s last minute 55 meter kick that helped the Springboks to beat the All Blacks for the first time in ages?”
There is only one sensible retort to comments like that: Was it not a huge team effort that ensured that the Springboks were within winning distance in those last few moments? Of course! And it required focussed attention from every individual in the team for all of a gruelling and intense 80 minutes to make sure that that indeed was the case.
The fact that we need to internalise is that no player has ever won or lost a team game. It requires the whole team for this to happen.
And let us examine the first point. Leadership is always a journey. This same game of rugby has taught us that over and over. As have all other forms of human activity.
Last week the Springboks were heroes. They had just beaten the World’s number 1 team. This week they have learned that leadership is tough and every week, every day it requires those in leadership positions to actively learn new skills. When you are striving to beat the World’s number 1 team you require a particular mind-set and determination. When you are learning to live with the reality of what you have achieved you will require a different mind-set and determination. Our Springboks were outstanding on the first count; they obviously still have much to learn on the second count.
There are two really important learning points from this example:
- When you are leader you need to remember that leadership is an extremely fragile condition. It is not a right; there are no guarantees; you do not own the position, and you are merely the custodian until you hand the baton to someone else. You had better learn to learn every minute of the day if you wish to maintain and improve your leadership position. You have very limited control over the position because it does not belong to you. It belongs to those that you lead and therefore crucial to your longevity in the position is the integrity with which you lead and the trust that you have earned from those that believe in you while doing so.
- Absolutely essential to cementing your position as leader is your ability to knit the group of individuals into a close-knit team who see themselves first and foremost as a team and only secondly as individuals with special and diverse skills, experience and knowledge. They need to understand that this combination of capabilities and competencies really only have value and currency if they are applied in a focussed and intentional way for the good and well-being of the team. Outside of that context they will have currency but of diminished importance. Consider the Pat Lambie example again. Would he have had the opportunity to be hero if he had been playing for another team? How long would it
take for him to earn the confidence of his new team mates to be given similar opportunities. Obviously the more talented the individual the quicker the opportunities would be given. However, there are plenty of examples, too, where talented individuals have not been able to find their rhythm, to earn their place in the confidence of the team, and to perform at the same level when they move from one team to another.
Leadership and teamwork are so closely dependent on each other that it does not make sense to separate them except to analyse the needs and activities of both to better understand what it is we need to do to make both perform more effectively.
Leaders have a crucial role to play in every element of our lives and especially in the life of the team of which they are a part. They only are a part of the team; they are not the team. Many leaders forget this.
The team can only be effective if their sole focus is on the needs and objectives of the team and not on the wants and desires of an individual, no matter how talented he or she may be. More teams have fallen apart because of the influence of one selfish individual than one would care to think about!