I vividly recall the day I learned the importance of We vs. Me. You hear it all the time: teamwork, there’s no I in team, team success, blah blah blah. So, the story goes…a boardroom full of leaders, hitters, you know, the people you aspire to surround yourself with, industry drivers and icons. Silence breaks as the CEO gives a valuable lesson to the latest hot shot in a voice colder than Iceland, “it’s WE, not I.”
I began to ponder my own leadership style. I hold a management belief that there are times when people have to work for you to get things done; however, the beauty in management and leadership is when your staff works with you, learning, growing, and achieving success because We Did It. So, what was the message the CEO was getting across?
There are two distinct leadership styles:
1. Transactional leadership: Get it done, produce results or else, do what I say, get me the report, and don’t question my authority; preserve the status quo and keep the operations running-i.e survival mode and fixed mindset.
2. Transformational leadership: Collaborative, achievable stretch goals, fully supportive of professional and personal growth, tell me a little more about that...; strategic-i.e growth mindset.
Through my own discovery of transformational leadership, I began to think about these key areas:
1. Strategic Decision Making vs. Tactical and Tasks. The importance of each role.
2. If our staff spends most of their time working, how will they thrive? What does a winning culture of WE look like? What tone are you using when someone works for you and with you, fear or belief?
3. It is OK to not be perfect, to not know the answer, and to rely on the smart people you hired to give suggestions, counsel, and insight into how they see the organization. Learn how to ask for help at all levels and be grateful for the diversity of skill sets in an organization; leverage them with gratitude and appreciation for your teammate, regardless of title.
4. Are people operating out of fear or a state of grace? Odds are, the I people are fear based leaders and the WE people are grateful for the team’s contributions.
5. Great leaders are surrounded by trusted advisers; while they execute decisions, they listen and learn continuously.
As the Board meeting carried on, you could see smirks on the faces of senior leaders, some pondering their own leadership styles, and a few people who clearly received a valuable lesson indirectly as a result of the "I" guy.
Titles don’t make one a leader.
Real leaders focus on inspiring, equipping, and believing in their people while giving them room to grow and the ability to fall on a trampoline and bounce back stronger than before.
At the end of the day, every group I have worked for and with, WE achieved amazing things because of our diversity, collaboration, and belief that WE could achieve success together, even as we all reached for our own personal definition of “success” and recognition.
So, I challenge you to replace the words I and Me with WE. It will be hard for the first day, or maybe even a month. The real hard part, spending five extra minutes with your staff to listen to their plate every morning, know what’s going on in their lives, and to ask them what they need from you or the company to succeed.
I promise all of you transactional leaders out there that those five minutes spent will reap you a higher bonus when your team performs like synchronized swimmers at the Olympics. And for everyone else, WE all got here together and will achieve amazing things working with each other in our networks.