On Leading Leaders
Awhile back, I was doing a question and answer session for members of my John Maxwell Team of certified coaches. And I got a great question from a gentleman named Billy. He asked a question that’s becoming more and more common: How do you gather and lead a leadership team?
A generation ago, people asked questions about managing organizations. As people discovered the importance of leadership, people’s focus began to change. They understood that leadership can make or break an organization, and as a result, many people began to development themselves as leaders.
Today we’re experiencing another shift—toward team leadership. Good leaders are realizing that they need more than a group of followers to support them. They understand that they need to develop a team of gifted leaders who complement one another and lead together.
So how do you direct a group of strong leaders? I think you must start by doing three things:
1. Communicate a Compelling Vision. There’s an American expression, where you say that leading a certain group is “like herding cats.” The idea is that actually herding a group of cats would be next to impossible, because they’re so independent.
Leading strong leaders can be like herding cats. They want to follow their own agendas. So the only way to get them to come together and go in the same direction is to have a vision – one that is more compelling than the ambition of each individual.
2. Earn the Respect of Good Leaders. The most talented leaders won’t just follow or partner with anyone. They want to be on the team of someone who is better than they are.
If you want good leaders to follow you, you need to earn their respect through character and competence. You need to keep your word and deliver the goods. And if you’re the team’s leader, you need to make sure everyone else does too.
3. Position Team Members Well. You will not experience positive team leadership unless every person on the team has a role, and he or she excels at it.
On a football team, everyone needs to know who plays what position. And if you’re the quarterback, you need to know not only where you fit into the team as a whole – what your unique contribution is—but you need to know the role of every other play on offense.
If you’re trying to assemble and lead a leadership team, keep these keys in mind. And if you’re not leading the team yourself, make sure that the person leading is strong enough to get people going in the right direction, and secure enough to give them room to strive and excel.
I joke about herding cats, because of the image that comes to mind of a group of housecats doing their own thing. However, with good leadership, the picture could be that of a pride of lions working together on a hunt. They all share the same goal, they know their individual roles, they depend upon one another, and they work together powerfully. When those things happen, they are a force to be reckoned with.
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