Leading Leaders: The Workbook is a companion to my leadership book by the same title, but can be used as a stand-alone guide for discussion groups, seminars, and individual study. Thoughtful questions and chapter self-assessments will assist leaders and teams to improve their leadership skills through candid review of both leadership and followership skills.
This workbook is even more valuable when used side by side with the book Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams. Drawn from a lifetime of leading in the military, in sports, and in volunteer organizations, Leading Leaders is both an engrossing and interesting way to learn to lead better. I take leadership lessons from my own career, as well as from historical and contemporary leaders, and creates an engaging, down-to-earth dialogue with the reader.
The workbook can be used in seminars, small groups, and as a self-study tool.
Each organization in an institution or company has a job to do: Leaders exist to execute their jobs in support of their company’s objectives. That means, internal to an organization, leaders should support their bosses and their institutional goals. My experience is that people rise to the leaders’ expectations. Set high standards and hold people to them, and people will meet them almost every time (conversely, if you set low standards…). Standards must be uniform; everyone knows how counter-productive “teacher’s pets” can be. Everyone wants to be successful and wants to feel that sense of accomplishment.
Expecting high standards is more than merely setting high sales goals or demanding perfection in quality. It means that leaders expect and demonstrate high personal and professional standards in the conduct of their lives and business. I don’t mean we create a “Stepford company” of robotic overachievers, but we do expect that ethical behavior at work means that we have ethical behavior in our private lives. We serve our cause, or institution, and each other best when this is the case. Entrepreneur and co-founder of Medical Imaging Company, combat veteran, and former A-10 pilot David Specht once shared his theory about why people fail that I think is very astute: “If someone fails, they usually fail for one of three reasons: either they weren’t trained, they weren’t resourced, or they weren’t led.” Dave’s view is one I agree with, and it illustrates the responsibility for the leader to lead his team by investing himself in the team’s success. If there is failure, the leader usually has himself to blame, at least initially.
Apart from George Bailey’s uncle in the film It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s a rare case indeed where the failure of an employee is solely responsible for an organization’s failure. However, even if it’s the sole employee’s fault for a failure, it’s the leader’s responsibility to get the task accomplished. An effective leader accepts responsibility for the failure of the task and diverts praise for success to their teammates and subordinates. It’s very unseemly for a leader to try to blame others for the failure of the team, just as it’s a morale killer for the team when the leader tries to take the glory for the success. The leader in those cases isn’t fooling anyone; everyone knows success is a team effort, and the leader is ultimately accountable for failure. Trying to divert attention only lowers the leader in the esteem of others.
In any endeavor, teamwork is usually the key to success. Every organization functions as a team; we all need each other to be successful.
Whether your company is 5 or 5,000, there are teams of people who have to work together to get the job done. It is a rare task that a person accomplishes on his or her own. This is not to downplay individual achievement, far from it, but t
he idea that teamwork enables organizations to reach their goals.
Ever watch an interview with a NASCAR driver? From the outside, car racing looks like a solitary sport: a car and a driver and a track. The skill and courage of a single driver pitted against a field of drivers. But listen to that interview: the driver never uses the word “I” when referring to what happens on the track. “We were running pretty good through the whole first 50 laps,” or “we’re just trying to run our race,” et cetera…you get the idea. Drivers understand that although they may be the “face” of the racing team, it is the team that is important. Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon said it best when he said, “Teamwork is everything. It takes all of us working together. We win and lose together.”
In sports, and in business, highly performing teams are most often the reason organizations are successful. Even superstars recognize they don’t get to the championship on their own. Take 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel for example. Watching Manziel play, it’s clear to even the novice football fan that he’s an incredibly gifted athlete. It would be easy to credit Texas A&M’s success during the 2012 season to Manziel’s heroics on the field, but Manziel didn’t see it that way. Standing on the national stage after becoming the first freshman ever to win one of college football’s most prestigious awards for individual achievement, he said,
“It’s such an honor to represent Texas A&M and my teammates here tonight, I wish they could be on the stage with me.”
The young man known as “Johnny Football” understood that he plays as part of a team, and that together the team is stronger than any one player.