Fall is almost here and that means football season, my favorite season of the year! All over the country, people are getting ready to fire up the grill, break out their team jersey and have family and friends over to watch the big game. They are hoping that their team wins.
There is something about winning that gets us excited. Whether it’s the thrill of a comeback, a great underdog story, or a perfectly executed plan, we love watching our team win. But winning is no accident. A team that wins is a team that has a strategy, and sometimes a little luck.
Great leaders, like great coaches, have a few qualities in common when it comes to winning.
1) THEY NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF THE END GOAL
The strategy that you implement is only there to get you to your goal. Unfortunately we often become more loyal and committed to our well thought-out strategy than the goal that the strategy was made for. I see this in business all the time. Someone has a great idea and they come up with a great plan. They begin executing the plan with success but then things change…and the leader or business doesn’t. They are met with new obstacles, newer and better competition, new regulations, you name it. They stay committed to their strategy, but to what end? Before long they are either irrelevant, out of business or both. Now I’m not suggesting that you go and overhaul your entire strategy every two weeks. That’s a great way to kill momentum and waste time and money. But great leaders keep their eyes on the end goal, watch for changing landscapes, and make the adjustments necessary to keep moving forward.
Think of it this way. Stand on one foot. Try to balance. I want you to concentrate on what is happening to keep you upright, assuming you haven’t fallen over yet. Notice that from your back all the way down to your feet, there are dozens of muscles, tendons and bones making tiny adjustments as necessary to keep you standing. This is what great leaders do. They make adjustments. Think of what coaches do at halftime. Their team is down so they adjust. They may swap out players, change running routes or adjust their play calls all in order to win.
Remember, there are solid principles in leadership that never change, but great leaders recognize that to win, you have to constantly tune and tweak your strategy to stay relevant and stay ahead.
2) THEY FOCUS ON DEVELOPING THEIR PEOPLE
This is huge! I once heard it said that your relationships are your greatest resource. While there is some truth to this, there is one inherent problem. When you see people as a resource, there’s a temptation to “use” them. Well what happens when the resource runs out? What happens when you don’t need that resource anymore?
Leaders who view people in light of what they can get from them, often leave a wake of frustrated, burned out and hurt people behind.
In contrast, great leaders tend to see people for what they can add to them, and believe it’s their job to call greatness out of their people.
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard said, “The highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential of others”. When we see potential in others and make it our business to develop that potential, we are implementing a winning strategy that is hard to beat.
3) THEY MAKE THE TOUGH CALLS
It’s going to happen. Crisis. Drama. Setbacks. Conflict. Betrayal. Failure. Your top project manager quits and takes your biggest client. The market tanks and your profits plummet. An influential employee is destroying morale. There’s not enough money to make payroll. A crucial team member is diagnosed with a terminal disease. Even the best leaders, with the best plans and the best people encounter big challenges. What sets them apart from ordinary leaders is how they respond to those challenges.
Leadership is often incredibly lonely. There are times when you will be required to make unpopular decisions or have difficult conversations because it’s the right thing to do. They do regularly get input from their team, listen to the ideas of their people and receive hard feedback at times, but the best leaders know when it is time to really step up and make the tough call. And they accept responsibility for whatever the outcome is. Good or bad. They don’t blame their circumstances and they don’t throw their people under the bus. Leaders lead through uncertainty. It’s what they do. They make the hard choices for the right reasons because; it’s what they were made for.
What about you? What are some other winning strategies of great leaders you see? We’d love to hear from you.