Most of the literature on leadership focuses on identifying the types and traits that make successful leaders. There is limited focus on followership. Yet without followership, there is no leadership.
One of John Maxwell’s favourite leadership quotes is, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” Robert Neuschel said that “The sine qua non of leadership is to recognize that accomplishments can be made only through your people.” This is because people are the primary work materials at a leader’s disposal. A leader’s followers are his team and as part of the team; it is his or her responsibility to make the team greater through his/her leadership presence. A leader who makes his/her leadership all about ‘me’ instead of the ‘team’ destroys the unity of the team.
A perfect acronym for team is ‘together everyone achieves more’ but divided they end up with less. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but this is dependent on both the leader and team working together or singing from the same hymn sheet. Team sports provide great illustrations of the ‘me’ vs ‘team’ situations.
Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. He was the superstar leader of his Chicago Bulls team, winning individual accolades such as four straight NBA scoring titles but no championship trophy to show for it. His coach, Phil Jackson, realised that Jordan’s spectacular individual performances were harming not helping the team in its quest to win NBA championships. Yes, he was winning individual scoring titles but he was not the complete team player. This is because he was trying to do it all by himself and hence stifling the team from contributing their best.
Great teams, not individual superstars, win championships. Jordan, as a good leader, agreed to sacrifice his personal ego for the team’s greater good. He would go on to win six NBA championship trophies and establish his place in basketball history because of his willingness to be a better team player. An effective leader is a good team player.
* Check out my previous post on the importance of recruiting the right team in which I discussed Steve Jobs at Apple.