“Success is indeed a team sport. Failure, you can pretty much do it on your own.” as one of my favorite quotations goes. Great Leaders know this by heart more than mediocre ones.
Yes, a leader sometimes claims that the success of the company was from their leadership. Yes, there may be merit in some of this. However, they cannot steer a company to succeed without a crew to support them. Even their executive assistant helps in this quest. A good EA would be guarding the time of the leader with tenacity. They make sure that the leader maximizes the use of their time. They keep out distractions and time-wasting people.
You would need a great marketing team to execute your vision and brand message. A good finance team helps manage funds in good times and bad. A good sales team brings in revenue to fuel growth. Even the driver plays a key role. He ensures you arrive safely at your meetings on time.
The biggest lie about success is the self-proclaimed self-made millionaires. There is no such thing as a self-made man or woman. We are social beings, and we need people around us. We need people to support our goals. We need people to rally behind us.
Another danger of self-professed self-made people is the outcome of their retirement. Through the years, they lead from a center of power. The center being themselves. The company is likely to collapse after they leave. A void will be left behind. No one was groomed to take over the helm.
Great leaders, on the other hand, understand that business is a long game. They look at business far beyond their tenure in the company. Japanese businessmen have this view of their companies. They understand that not taking the time to develop other leaders in the organization will have a detrimental effect when they leave.
Great leaders understand that there are no real winners or losers in the business. Companies are either ahead or behind in the long game. New players will come join the game. Other companies may leave the game. Even the most established companies fall behind without good leadership. Take IBM, once an unstoppable force in front of the pack, whose leader turned arrogant. Today they are behind in their game.
Great leaders like Bill Gates early in his career made sure that employee and leadership development is at the core of their business. I had the opportunity to work with managers of Microsoft Middle-East. It was fascinating to know that they even have metrics on learning. Knowledge sharing was also part of the culture. Team members need to write a ‘white paper’ of projects they complete and share it in a central knowledge base repository.
Contrary to the claims of some leaders, leaders don’t build great companies. I beg to disagree. If you observe companies that have succeeded through generations of leadership succession, they had one very important thing going for them. They understand that great leaders develop great people. Great people build great companies. There is no other way to truly thrive in the long game of what we call ‘business.’