As we entrench ourselves in the Olympics this month, it’s clear: everyone loves winning.
The pride of being the best, of being able to exclaim, “I’m a winner!” is exhilarating. And on the world stage, against the best of the best, OMG, that has got to be a feeling that can’t be beat! It’s the ultimate prize. One could easily argue the same for leadership–and in fact, many in our culture do.
But here’s the thing: leading people is NOT about winning and losing. I know, I just lost some of you A-types that feel results are everything, and what’s the point if not to win? Well, I’m not arguing against that perspective.
What I AM suggesting is that it’s time to ask ourselves who we are competing against. When it comes to our leadership, who is our real opponent? The vast majority of people many leaders compete with are not their genuine opponents–they’re employees, our own teams, staff, prospects, customers, suppliers, family members, neighbors, kids, clerks, fellow drivers, and more. These people are on our team. We work and live with these people to achieve our goals! So why then do so many “leaders” see every interaction with every individual as a competition, an ‘us vs. them,’ a battle with another teammate?
Every interaction is an opportunity to build a stronger team. As leaders, our job is to emulate what it means to engage, to learn, to struggle, to question, to challenge, to succeed and to fail. To a real leader, struggling, failing and making mistakes isn’t an indication of poor leadership, it’s indicative of great leadership–we learn more from what we do wrong than what we do right! Creating a culture of embracing that growth in ourselves and others can expand learning, build deeper loyalties and give you and your team the courage to take the real risks that yield greater success and bigger wins against your actual opponents.
So be careful where you keep score. You may be outplaying a teammate–someone who can help you break the next world record.
Steven Fulmer was the opening keynote speaker at the ODK’s 48th Biennial Convention and Centennial Celebration held in June 2014 in Lexington, Va. He is the author of “Leadership Just Got Personal.”