Strong leadership is a vital component of having a powerhouse team. The direction, inspiration, support and example of leading from the front cannot be underestimated. However, no matter how superb a leader may be, this is only half (or perhaps well less than half) the battle.
Responsibility for being a powerhouse team rests with each individual Team Mate because each team is only as strong as its weakest link.
I’d love to say that leadership, effective communication and team culture are things we all work towards when the going is good, but in my experience, they’re not things we prioritise until it becomes abundantly clear that we need to – at which point the wheels are starting to wobble, or even fall off.
By the time the wheels are falling off your team, there is some water under the bridge and a few agendas clashing. Fingers get pointed and everyone is waiting for someone else to demonstrate loyalty and effort to rebuild decayed trust.
Strengthening a team requires energy and this energy must be called for and committed to from all sides. Leadership must inspire, renew and call to order. Draw a new direction, commit to the following of it and take the initiative to lead loudly by example. This is not enough though. Each and every team member must be called to realise the vital part that they play and draw themselves up to the challenge. They must speak honestly about their needs and honour the needs of the rest of the team. A friend of mine described it in terms of the slats of a broken wooden pail yesterday. The amount of water that pail can hold is determined by the most broken slat, over the top of which the water will pour out. The same is true with a team. The energy will flow out at the most broken point.
For that reason, it lands with the leader primarily, to make the effort to ask every part of the team what their needs are and try faithfully to meet those needs. This is a mission that requires great effort and commitment – the rewards for which are powerful and long-lasting rebuilding of trust, engagement and loyalty.
We’re currently surrounded by a myriad of examples of this – each with their varying degrees of success.
Within 10 days of the terror attacks in New Zealand, their Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, moved decisively to start discussions on the ban all semi-automatic military style weapons. Citizens started handing them in of their own accord! She has called for unity of spirit and declares “I need help from every single one of us. Let New Zealand be a place where there is no tolerance for racism, ever. And that’s something we can all do.” Watch an excerpt of her speech here.
On another continent, the 29th of March looms large as Brexit threatens to test the democracy of an entire nation. Any discussion that asks your team what their needs are must be open, frank and transparent. There is no room for leadership to try and colour that discussion or lead its result in a direction that is desirable for that leadership. The authenticity of the team’s needs must be respected.
On my own continent, the “individual leadership” (my brother’s words) shown by the people of Zimbabwe in response to the disaster that is Cyclone Idai has been overwhelming. Out of a community that has little continues to flow aid for those that now have nothing, proving that even when strong leadership is absent, individuals can rise up to form a team of immense strength themselves when united by common values.
Dale Carnegie wrote “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
Each of us is waiting for someone else to lead. For someone else to demonstrate what we want to see. Yet, we all have a responsibility to be the team mate we’d like to serve with. Find your courage. Act. Lead.
In which arena are you a leader and which a team mate? What is your part to play and how can you add to the combined energy of the group? What are you waiting for, and how can you start it yourself? What do you fear and how can you act with courage regardless? What are the needs of your team and how can you honour them? How can you show individual leadership today?
by Christen Killick
March 25th, 2019