Over the weekend I was reading a great review of a book that will be released May 16th, by the sports editor of the Wall Street Journal. The title is: The Captain Class, by Sam Walker. It sounds like a winner, and it will soon be on my desk.
I wanted to share a bit about what the author found about who were the influencial players on the team and what they did to lead. The players chosen were from dynasties, both men and women, not from ‘just a champion once’ type of teams. Interestingly, it was not the star, many times, who was the key to leadership.
Here are the seven common traits:
- They took care of the unglamorous tasks – they were able to master the mundane with tireless consistency. It is the ability to perform at this level that those of lesser accomplishment never seem to achieve. It is never fun – and always, yes always, results in amazing results. The problem is that you get tired of the process. The recovery movement has a great saying: Never give up before the miracle occurs.
- They pushed the limits of the rules – They didn´t break the rules, but they weren´t conventional. Leaders that inspire do things differently. They think about situations in a different light that allows for novel approaches.
- They were open communicators, not gifted speakers – While no one will dispute the power of good communication, these leaders seemed to get movement through connecting with everyone in open dialogue, not the eloquent, powerful speech. This would certainly validate the realization that is growing within the leadership world that influence is based on connection, person by person, face to face.
- They used deeds to motivate – They led from the front, from the trenches. Their actions provided for credibility. Competence, credibility, consistency were what one lecturer stated was the basis for trust, which is the basis for motivation.
- Their thinking was independent and they were unafraid of dissent – This is a tough one, since many confuse leadership with being liked. Good leaders know that is never the case. To quote from the review “…their dissent wasn´t personal. They understood that conflict, when focused on supporting a team´s goals, is not destructive. It is essential”. However, that conflict needs to be at the right time and place. The right time is behind closed doors, with the right leaders in the room. That is where the dissent and discussion can be open and candid so that the decision can be achieved with the very best of thought. And then, once the door is open, the loyalty to the decision and the team´s best interest takes precedent over individual thought and action.
- They were relentless – There are so many examples of greatness based in a dogged dedication to self-improvement. It is a significant separating behavior and only those that pay the price will get the benefit. It sounds trite, and it is indisputably true. Sadly, many stop learning and preparing once graduation has occurred and then wonder why opportunity passes them by. John Wooden is credited with saying that when opportunity presents itself, the time to prepare has ended.
- They possessed remarkable emotional self-control – This is not surprising, considering the growing base of evidence about the power of emotional intelligence. Last year Harvard Business Review´s book of the year was titled: Emotional Agility, which speaks to the importance of maintaining emotional resiliency in the face of difficult times and circumstances. Yet the lack of this ability is the bane of many leaders, which fall to less than desirable emotions in the face of crisis.
Would you take five minutes, right now, and rate yourself, on a scale of one to ten, on each of the seven areas?
1. What do you do best? How could you do that better?
2. What is the next best trait? How could you do that better?
3. And the weakest area? Who can you get on your team that could do that for you? A growing amount of research indicates that improving your strength areas is where leaders can maximize their talents. Then focus on connecting with people who thrive in the areas you do not. In this way you can play at the top of your game with others that are also at the top of theirs´.