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Leadership is The Sum of All Parts

According to the dictionary definition “leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organization”. Perhaps we should look at leadership from a different perspective. Leadership is the cooperative action that is demonstrated through the talents and skills of people either in a family, community or by employees at all levels of a corporate organization.

Without the collective performance of an orchestra a conductor has no music and an audience is cheated out of a symphony.

When people think of a leader, generally pictures of a single person appear. Some are feared while others are admired. Shifting perspective to view leadership from the group or the team—in which each person, member of a company works to achieve an overall goal through individual contributions using their talents, skills to innovate or serve others—creates incredible results every day. Both the leader and the team share more expanded view of what leadership is and is more likely to consider the contributions of all members of the enterprise.

Ants can teach us a valuable lesson in team work — they work together, each ant having specific tasks.

While charismatic leaders can make a difference, it is generally their teams that are vital to the success or recognition of their companies. Venture capital start-ups investors generally place great value on the quality of a team that demonstrates alignment of the founding members on the direction of the company and their team’s role in achieving their vision. An open environment of trust and communication in which team members are enthusiastic about using their skills to innovate and, to achieve something worthwhile, will always excel against the odds. “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” -Michael Jordan.

If you’re a Star Trek fan you probably remember the collective of the Borg – a fictional entity in which each individual (Borg) perform specific task toward a common objective – however, unlike the Borgs we are not reactionary drones and make decisions on courses of action using innate talents and learned skills that makes us quite distinct and, when shared as part of a family, community or workplace are invaluable.

Building a corporate culture of leaders is like coaching an all-star basketball team.

Forming leadership teams when individual roles are not optimal is not for the faint of heart. This doesn’t happen automatically especially in our Western culture where autonomy is frequently celebrated. Without clear and specific focus from management or executives of a company; teamwork may not be fruitful. To be successful everyone must be in agreement and willing to operate within the boundaries of a team. There is no room for single stars or anyone seeking individual recognition. Team members must be fully committed to the end-goals and, be ready to work through conflicts and disagreements, in order to effectively create solutions in a very competitive world. Each situation should be looked at individually, to determine whether an undertaking will benefit from a team approach. If that is the case, start by creating a small team with a distinct qualitative goal that each member on the team understands and commits to.

In June 1992, the US men’s Olympic basketball team brought together some of the greatest players in the history of basketball. Among them Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, and Scottie Pippen. During a scrimmage against college players the “Dream Team” lost by eight points as reported by the. Scottie Pippen said it best following the game “We didn’t know how to play with each other,” the dream team went on to win later and won the 1992 Olympic gold after making sure that each player was using his skills to play together and toward one cohesive objective. The rest is history, they scored over 100 points in every game at the Olympics.

No one is born a leader.

The skills must be learned and exercised. Executives must create and maintain a culture that encourage all levels of an organization to excel and to discover their talents in order to contribute to the enterprise. This requires personal investments and organizational commitment that help people to grow in leadership through mentoring, training and recognition. Having continuous processes in place that promote the abilities and qualities of all people are important because they help an organization meet its goals at any levels.

Such an approach makes for a new definition of leadership that takes into consideration the valuable contributions of each person, for indeed an organization is the sum of all its associates: “A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa

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