Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Team Leadership: We vs. I

"The ruler is powerful because he is at the head of a complex set of relationships. By Contrast, personal strength, morality and abilities are qualities that belong only to the individual. They are ineffective unless conjoined with the larger pattern of influence"
This line from Sun Tzu, "The Art of War, A new translation" resonated with many leadership dilemmas that are faced daily by organizations. A leader who is highly talented has all the knowledge, is brought into a company as the "Savior" and the company still fails to succeed. An understanding that you can have an all star performer although this performer is only as good as the team around them. Excellent leaders are able to build and create a team that exceed the competence of one all knowing power house of leadership. These concepts are evident in nature as well as the business world. Although I find in several work places the belief of "it's not our fault, he is the leader or team leader or project manager" or whatever title you are given. It is like in Donald Trump's show "The Apprentice" when something goes wrong the team all crosses their arms and blames the project manager. Luckily we do not live in "The Apprentice" culture, or do we?
Leaders must work to develop strong teams and befriend people to gain true trust and establish team visions. This can be accomplished by changing some thought patterns of leadership and managers from an "I" to a "We". And not just "We" when things go well, the "We" is used to see how things went wrong. "This year we really missed the mark, let's talk about how we can work through this so it will not be the same next year." There must still be accountability when projects do not get accomplished or people are not working to the expectations of the organizations. Taking the spotlight off of a leader and placing the accolades and blame sometimes in the laps of the team members, rallies them all to excel and keep each other accountable. Next time you are in a meeting ask someone to keep count of the amount of time the Leader says "I", as opposed to "We". Reflect upon how individuals take this "I" speak, do they feel motivated? Annoyed? Indifferent? Additionally how many questions does the leader ask the team. Not questions that are asked to belittle or berate, true questions, that require thought and feedback from the team. These two actions the changing "I" to "We" and the art of asking questions, can make a team powerful and in turn make the leader knowledgeable and powerful as the team gains momentum. If a leader fails to acknowledge that without the team members - all the team members - success will never come, this leader will fail to realize and actualize their true potential. This potential lays in the hands and minds of their team and not within the individual.

- Michael Cardus
Michael Cardus is an Adventure Consultant for Create-Learning-Team Building Headquarters in Buffalo NY

Reference: Sun Tzu, The Art of War: A new translation, translation and comment by the Denma Translation Group (Boston: Shambhala, 2001), 70.