mark-zuckerberg-facebookOverwhelmingly today, in most organizations, all the focus, all the recognition, all the accolades go to one person or a few people within the organizations who have become the face or faces of the organization. This superstar limelight is generated internally and promoted externally, but it is a troubling sign of unquintessential leadership.

steve-jobs-appleA few examples are names that we probably know better than the names of some of our neighbors, some of our colleagues, and some of our more distant relatives: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg

Let me ask you a question. Have you ever heard any of these people give credit to and recognize the teams behind their organizations’ successes?

Quintessential leaders understand the value of their teams and the value of each person who makes up those teams. Because of that, quintessential leaders do what most people in leadership positions don’t do: they cultivate their teams wisely, carefully, deliberately, and successfully.

In “How Quintessential Leaders Build Teams,” we discovered what quintessential leaders look for in the people they choose for their teams. Once those teams are in place, quintessential leaders look for opportunities to grow not only the team as a unit but each of the members of the team.

This is in stark contrast to how most people in leadership positions deal with their teams. Why? Their need for all the power, all the attention, and sole credit makes it impossible for anyone else on the team to be smarter, better, and to have a moment in the sun.

So what happens? These people in leadership positions squelch or ignore anything that might grow and develop the team and its members because growth and development represent a threat to them. Often, it’s more than just a passive course of action though. Usually, the team and its members are consistently berated, threatened, and bullied, until morale is destroyed, initiative is non-existent, and those that have an opportunity to bail do so as quickly as they can.

Quintessential leaders, on the other hand, understand that if the team and its members grow and develop, then everybody wins. From an organizational perspective, projects run smoothly, products get better, and profits increase.

From a team perspective, there are less and less gaps in knowledge and solutions, which are two of the main reasons projects are late, products fail, and profits plateau or fall.

From an individual perspective, each person is becoming an expert in his or her area of responsibility – and becoming more valuable as an expert – and each person is more personally invested in the team, the projects, the products, and the profits.

Quintessential leaders also make sure they recognize their teams, collectively and individually, instead of taking all the credit themselves. They consistently look for opportunities to publicly highlight individual contributions that are innovative, creative, and point to excellence. However, this is not the “everybody gets a gold star regardless of aptitude, ability, and effort” kind of reward system so prevalent in modern education that devalues hard work, dismisses critical thinking, and demotivates natural high achievers.

Quintessential leaders look for traits of quintessential leadership in their team members when they publicly recognize outstanding contributions. These include taking initiative to solve problems, finding creative and innovative ways to do things not only more efficiently and more quickly, but also better, being mentors to other team members, and helping out without being asked to in areas beyond their responsibilities after their responsibilities are finished.

And the thing that quintessential leaders do with their teams and their team members that really sets them apart is to show appreciation. This is not just saying “thanks” as an afterthought once in a while. Instead, it is a continuous display of gratitude through words and actions that shows their teams that they are valued, they are needed, and that there is an investment in them, collectively and individually, that has high expectations of even greater achievement and greater success.

That’s what a lot of people in leadership positions miss when they grandstand and take all the credit and glory for themselves, either willfully ignoring the team behind them who made (and makes) great things a reality or tyrannically demolishing their teams through bullying and intimidation.

expect-more-from-selfWhen we invest in our teams through growing and developing them, recognizing them, and appreciating them, we also raise the bar not only on what we expect of them, but also on what they expect of themselves. This is one of the greatest gifts that we as quintessential leaders give our teams and our team members. And it costs nothing, but the return on investment is priceless.

So my challenge to each of us is to look at our teams, collectively and individually, wherever they exist in our lives. Are they performing at all? Are they underperforming? Are they so-so performing? Are they outperforming?

Whatever the answer to these questions is, the answer to why and what to do lies first and foremost with us. And that includes a “yes” answer to the last question, because outperforming means not just doing something right, as a quintessential leader, one time, but every time, all the time, so it’s an ongoing, continuous, lifelong process.

  1. iammarchhare says:

    I like this article because one thing that is taught in the Army is leadership, and the best leaders are those who train their eventual replacements. Rock stars usually don’t, and they leave a vacuum in their wake instead. Steve Jobs is a good example of the rock star mentality, as he was a compulsive perfectionist and micromanager. It remains to be seen how well Apple will fare in the near future.

    Even in the business world, the best leaders make themselves replaceable. The irony is that they usually are replaced rather than retained.


    • Thanks, John…I appreciate and agree with your comments. One of the most enigmatic things that I’ve observed in most organizations is the lack of understanding among those in leadership positions that if they do not start looking for their replacements on day one and growing them in the time they are there, then all the work that they do and want to outlive them will cease when they’re gone (death or new position).

      This “starting over” that happens time and again with each new leadership change because there’s no person or people in place to fill the void and continue what’s working well and improve or eliminate what’s not is what I call “organizational rut.” We collectively bemoan the lack of positive growth, change, and innovation, and yet most of us who are in a position to do something about it do nothing about it.

      Hope you’re doing well. I’m enjoying your posts, as usual, and keep you close in my thoughts and prayers daily.


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