Leading Leaders: Principle #1

Leading Leaders: Principle #1

“Yes, but he can be difficult.”  I was having dinner with Walt, a friend who owns a small retail outlet that I frequent, and I was telling him how much I liked and appreciated his key employee who manages the shop when he is not there.  Walt wants to expand into another location but can’t find someone to manage his existing store and when I suggested this key employee, and he hesitated for a moment and made the above assessment.   That conversation occurred after I had already written this months newsletter, but it reinforced the basic principles and themes for this series of articles: In order to grow your business or organization you need to recruit and train leaders, and leaders are difficult.

I have identified five principles of leadership that I will deal with over the next several months.  They are:

Principle #1: If you are going to grow something beyond the number of people who will be directly connected to you, then you must learn to lead leaders.

Principle #2: The paradigm of leading leaders is different from the paradigm of leading followers.

Principle #3: Leaders are difficult.  If you are going to lead leaders you are going to lead difficult people.

Principle #4: The most important factor in leading leaders is to have a high “EQ" – Emotional Intelligence.

Principle #5: For leaders the decision is not whether or not they can lead it is always a question of whether or not they will lead.

Principle #1: If you are going to grow something beyond the number of people who will be directly connected to you, then you must learn to lead leaders.

I spent most of my career working with high school kids and one of the indisputable truths I learned is that if I was going to grow a work in a high school beyond my own personal charisma (which wasn’t much), I was going to have to work with the leaders of the school.  I was going to have to lead the leaders. 

In our culture there seems to be a crisis of leadership.  Organizations are desperate for leaders, but it is not a lack of leaders that is the problem, it is a lack of leaders who can and will, lead leaders.

I got a call last week from a friend in his early thirties who has been offered a job as CEO of a small company and is wondering if he should consider the position or not.  The founder of the company is in his late sixties and wants to retire, but has no one to pass the torch to.  He sees my friend as a shining star (and indeed he is) and wants a quick fix to an issue he has ignored for thirty years – grooming his successor.  The corporate midgets surrounding the founder are resisting the appointment of my friend because they like the status quo and are resistant to any change.  They will always resist change, which is why none of them are being considered for the job.  My prediction: the founder will ultimately give in to the group-think around him.  The same lack of EQ that caused him to surround himself with this group in the first place will cause him to concede to their adolescent demands now.  But I digress.

This one incident wouldn’t be noteworthy except that I know of three other situations with exactly the same dynamic.  Too many leaders have not invested in other leaders and therefore do not have anyone to take their place. This error is reflected in the missed opportunities for growth by their organizations.  Their organizations have not grown beyond the founder.  These founders have painted themselves into an unenviable corner where they can’t sell their company and they can’t retire.  They would like to sell their company but there are no buyers.  They haven’t grown their company to a position where anyone will buy it mostly because they have not assembled a quality team that consists of great leaders. It is that same team that lacks a leader to succeed the founder.  With no suitors or successors the founder is stuck with a company he can’t sell and can’t leave.

There is a direct correlation between the unwillingness to invest in great leaders and the lack of growth of an organization.   

Those who don’t want to lead leaders hire compliant people who are faithful followers. When compliance is the attribute most rewarded and affirmed, growth will either be stagnant or non-existent, because compliant people will not challenge the status quo in fear of upsetting the people around them.  They will not reach beyond the existing paradigms and look for new avenues of growth.  Followers are risk averse and will not reach beyond their comfort zones because they live out of their fears and not their confidence.  Every organization needs followers – great followers – but without great leaders, great followers are lost, and so is the organization.

The only way for an organization to grow beyond the leadership abilities of the existing leader is for the leader to resolve to hire, encourage and promote other leaders.

Next month we’ll look at Principle #2: The paradigm of leading leaders is different from the paradigm of leading followers.

About the author / bobperkins

Latest comments

  • Steve Gregory
    September 17, 2007 at 5:33 pm Reply

    Living out of your fears or out of your confidence…that’s a neat way of looking at it.

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