"How Winning Works: 8 Essential Leadership Lessons from the Toughest Teams on Earth" by Robyn Benincasa (World Champion Adventure Racer and Guinness Book Record Holder in Kayaking) This remarkable book talks about teams competing and winning against extremely difficult and life-threatening odds. What is fascinating is that the team dynamics and principles of winning described in this book are almost identical with those desperately sought by corporate leaders and teams everywhere, and which are powerfully and experientially reinforced through the "CorporateTheatre" experience. One key insight gained is that even across diverse platforms of challenge and experiencing, at the core, human behaviour and aspirations are almost exactly the same!
Here are some brilliant statements from the book and the relevant "CorporateTheatre" connects. (The excerpts are in bold italics) "I learned that you don’t inspire your teammates by showing them how amazing you are. You inspire them by showing them how amazing they are." This brilliant statement resonates powerfully with another very wise saying on Leadership by a very wise old man, Lao Tzu. He states his view of Leadership thus: “As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate. When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘We did it ourselves."
Human team dynamics, including the dynamics of leadership have not changed across thousands of years. Across centuries, across cultures, across industry, the instinctive programming of teams has been to win, to be the best. Whether it is about little children playing in their school playgrounds, or massive corporate teams competing in the global market for billion dollar stakes, the core behavioural dynamics are almost exactly the same.
One of the more significant insights that emerge from the "CorporateTheatre" experience is that an effective leader does not have to lead all the time. Instead, his or her job is to clearly define the team's destination as well as the parameters for reaching that destination successfully. Having identified the destination and the parameters, the leader must ensure that everyone in the team is clear about the destination, the parameters, as well as the rewards for reaching there successfully. The leader must also ensure that everyone in the team knows that success or failure is a collective celebration or responsibility. *
Having done this the leader must be willing to step back. As the journey begins and progresses, the leader does not feel compelled to lead all the time. Instead, the challenge of leadership is to ensure that along the journey leadership goes to the person who has maximum clarity on that particular part of the journey irrespective of seniority or designation. In other words the effectiveness of the leader lies not so much in leading as in empowering leadership across the team.
As stated by Robyn Benincasa in her very insightful book, Leadership is about making the team realize how powerful, how resourceful, and how amazing they are. And as ole Lao Tzu said many centuries ago, "when the best leader's work is done, the people say, "We did it ourselves".
* (How to create the environment of clarity and trust that facilitates a collaborative environment towards a common goal and collective success, without losing focus on individual brilliance and star performance, has been discussed several times in this blog.)