What makes a great leader? Most cultures and organizations assume it’s strength, autonomy, brilliance, vision and power. But these values produce – at best – isolated, exhausted leaders. All too often, the results are more toxic: incompetence, rigidity, self-indulgence, callousness, corruption and evil (Kellerman).
Excellent, sustainable leadership doesn’t happen automatically – it requires significant paradigm shifts. Most leaders (and followers) have deeply embedded assumptions which must be challenged and replaced with effective beliefs and practices.
Want to avoid the pitfalls of power? Here’s how a healthy team can help:
- Expand Your Leadership Density: Truly great leaders share responsibility and authority with others. Jesus initiated his succession plan at the very start of his ministry. As you work yourself out of a job, you’ll be poised for growth – and surrounded by a competent team of friends.
- Be suspicious of your own hype: Who are you? Image confusion is a constant temptation when people relate to your role rather than your soul; when you’re bombarded by accolades and criticism. People are easily impressed and quickly offended. Jesus asked of his friends, “Who do people say I am? Who do you say I am?” He was most concerned about the insights of his friends.
- Encourage dissent and diversity; avoid group think: Walter Lippmann said, “The opposition is indispensable. A good statesman, like any other sensible human being, always learns more from his opposition than from his fervent supporters.” Does your team include those with the guts to disagree? If not, accountability will suffer, and your strengths may become cancerous.
- Find sanctuary: Build partners, confidants and allies. Nurture safe relationships where you can process pressure and clarify perspectives.
- Go beyond high-performing teams, to high-relating teams. What delights those who make up your organization? What interests and challenges them? Be interested in them as people, not just fellow workers.
Remember, the most important player on the team is the team!
The best leadership decision we made in the past year was to meet weekly for an extended coffee break with no set agenda. There’s something about belly laughter and safe relationships that stimulates creative, collaborative thinking and teamwork.
What about you? What strategies keep you and your teams resilient, productive and accountable?