(Comments on the article, “What Makes a Great Leadership Team?” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, authors of ‘Strengths Based Leadership’, in the Gallup Management Journal dated 3rd February, 2009)
The article starts with a brilliant statement: “Individuals don’t have to be well-rounded, but teams should be”.
A prominent feature of “CorporateTheatre” workshops are theatre productions done by the participants within severe resource and time constraints. This involves competencies in the areas of acting, direction, set making, costume design, props, make-up, and even sound and light management. When you consider the fact that the vast majority of participants have never done theatre before, the output in terms of production quality is most often, stunning. When the experience is processed, it becomes very clear that while no single individual can be expected to have all the competencies required for completing a project, a committed team inevitably finds all that is needed to deliver excellence. This awakens us to a cardinal principle of natural teams – In a natural team everyone is not expected to be equally competent. What is important is that everyone is equally committed. And commitment like integrity is either 100 percent or not available. One cannot be 90 percent committed just as one cannot have 90 percent integrity.
Another relevant statement made in the article is, “Instead of one dominant leader who tries to do everything or individuals who all have similar strengths, contributions from all four domains lead to a strong and cohesive team.”
An interesting insight experienced through the “CorporateTheatre” process is that leadership is a 'wave' rather than a 'point'. If leadership of a team depends on one individual, it would not be as effective as when the entire team takes on the responsibility for leadership. To use a metaphor, probably used elsewhere in this blog, defining a destination requires person-centric leadership. You cannot have ten different people defining ten different destinations. (It goes without saying that it is the responsibility of this leadership to ensure that everyone in the team finds value and fulfillment in reaching that destination). Having defined the destination, if the same person decides to lead throughout the journey, the journey will not be effective. Along the way, whoever knows that part of the journey best, irrespective of seniority or designation, takes on responsibility for leadership, and everyone else including the person who defined the destination, enables this leadership. It is very much like the flock of geese migrating across vast distances. They fly in a ‘v’ formation. The bird in front has to take on maximum load, as the flapping of wings of the birds in front create air currents that make it easier for the birds behind. And when the lead bird gets tired, it moves back into the formation and another bird takes its place at the head of the formation.
The authors define four domains of leadership strength – Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. I am sure that a great deal of study and research has gone into these categorizations. I am also aware that they do not compartmentalize these domains. However, my experience with thousands of participants bear out the fact that when the goal is clear, the alignment is total, and trust in each other’s clarity and alignment (the 3 Pillars of a Natural Team) is unconditional, people move from one domain to another effortlessly, based on what is needed from moment to moment to take the team towards its destination.