First and foremost, before making your ascent, you must build a solid foundation based on a culture that rewards effort and ingenuity. Things that are built too fast or on a shaky foundation tend to fall twice as quickly as they rose. You must also make sure to build it with character and not characters. “One of the most important lessons that experience teaches is that, on the whole, success depends more upon character than upon either intellect or fortune” said Irish historian William Edward Hartpole Lecky. As John Wooden, widely considered the greatest coach of all-time, was fond of saying, “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”
Once you have those things in the place and finish your trek to the top, there’s one more thing your leader will need to do if they want to stay there very long. They must keep their ego in check and resist the temptation of making the common mistake of hiring a bunch of sycophants. If they manage to do this, they have the one trait that separates them from their peers. A majority of good leaders don’t have this trait and fall victim to the mistaken notion that they are so exceptional and have it all figured out so well that they could not possibly learn anything new or ever be wrong.
The truly exceptional leaders, that keep their team or company on top for the long-haul, are usually surrounded by people who are free to contradict them and even encouraged to do so. This is extremely rare as it goes against human nature and is why we see so few teams and companies fulfill their early promise. I have been hired by companies to evaluate their processes and identify their blind spots or other areas that need attention, which is a good first step. As University of West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck succinctly puts it, “A head coach doesn’t need eight guys around him who don’t challenge him, who think the same way.”
You know your team or company is underachieving and likely to fall a few pegs down the ladder when people in leadership positions reach “guru” status and nothing they do is ever questioned. This also happens when individuals are seen as being close to the head coach or CEO, making others fearful of speaking their minds about them or their ideas. Odds are if you can’t question your peers or superiors you cannot question the leader. So if you see this dynamic starting to appear in your organization, it may be a good indication that now is an advantageous time to look for a new opportunity.
Posted in The Mind Side Blog Supertao.com
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