There is an old truth that “everything reproduces after its kind.” This may be a reality of nature, but it is death to great leadership. Let me explain.
One of the most difficult things for me to coach leaders into doing is hiring and encouraging leaders who are different from them. Most leaders want to surround themselves with people like them. They want a flock, not a team. They want to associate with their own kind.
Save this for the golf course or the dinner party or the trip to the beach. That’s where you can freely hang out with people like you and have it work for you. To try this in hiring your executive team or in growing leaders from within your firm is a sure path to failure
Let me use myself as an example. I am an introvert who does well with large groups of people but who is less effective in small groups. I’m also highly visual, a reader, and an observer. I need lots of time alone to think through plans before I execute.
If I create my executive team in my image, I won’t have an effective firm. Imagine a team of all introverts. Imagine a team of people all of whom need hours alone to plan before engaging. Imagine a whole band of leaders who are good one-on-one but incapable of leading small groups. This type of team will be incompetent, competitive, and ingrown.
If I’m an introvert, I need a good number of extroverts around me. I need people who hear, feel, and think in groups the way I watch and ponder alone. I need people who are great with small groups and highly relational, capable of building their own teams.
This means I can’t be insecure. I have to be comfortable with people who are better where I am weak, and who supplement me where I am strong. That’s what a leadership team is: a diverse body of individuals all extending each other’s gifts toward the senior leader’s goals.
When I build a team, I look for diversity. I’d love to have ethnic and gender diversity, and I think this is important. More important for building a leadership team, though, is having a diversity of personalities and leadership styles. I need the intuitive, quick thinking woman. I need the high relational, “how will this play with the troops” guys. I want the planner who takes two sentences from me and turns it into a ten-part game plan by the end of our thirty-minute meeting. I also need the “captains,” as I call them—the ones who are great at building small squads of people rabidly devoted to a cause.
Now all of these people need me, the older, more experienced, big picture, deep thinking man in charge. I define the purpose. I set their range. I empower them with vision and defined goals. I inspire them. I get in front of the hundreds to paint the broad picture in brilliant colors and this allows my captains to take their tens and get the job done. Then, of course, I get the heck out of the way and let them achieve.
Insecure leaders gather flocks and flocks fly the same way in the same direction making the same noise all the time. Great leaders build teams of creative individuals and send them charging toward brave goals as one.
Be a great leader.
The truth is that we manage things, but we lead people. This means that leading is all about matters of the human soul: destiny, individual gifts, character, excellence, and investing for success. In my course, “Leadership 101: When the Elephant Kicks Free,” I’ll introduce you to this art of leadership and help you become the great leader you want and need to be.