Why Miserable Leaders Claim they have a Horrible Team

A friend of mine told me that his friend, a top leader at a top company, actually said:  “I am great leader, but my team sucks.” We laughed hystertically!  It is so absurb.  Yet there are many leaders out there that think this.

Jim Collins’ extensive research in Good to Great tells us that great leaders of long term financially successful companies are the opposite of this leader.  They are humble.  They credit their success on how lucky they are to have such a great team working for them.

Yet I can empathize with this frustration of a leader who feels his team doesn’t get it, isn’t motivated, or isn’t capable.  These are the situations we are called in to help with day in and day out.  They are struggling and don’t know what else to do. At this point it is easy to blame the team. However, it soon becomes clear in these situations that it is the leader who isn’t great.  What the leader is doing is clearly not working: the leader’s job is to get the team to be great. 

80% of the time we are called, the leader can not see that in some shape or form, they are undermining the team. 

* they are leading very strongly since no one is taking initiative  – so then everyone sits back and waits for the leader to take charge;  

* they are not being clear enough about what they really want the team to do, so the team doesn’t do what they want, and the leader gets frustrated and takes it out on the team. Then the team disengages; repeat the loop

* they are not adjusting their approach based on the personalities in the team, so some people just don’t “get” the leader.  The leader see some people “get it” and others are not responding, so the leader continues to play favorites of the team members who “get it” and the others get further marginalized;

All of these situations, based on the belief that ‘I am great and they are the problem’ are vicious cycles. They feed themselves based on the leader not seeing reality. 

To get out of this illusion, the executive needs a mirror. An influential mentor in my career, Wilson Tilley, used to say, “It takes 2 to see 1.” If you want to really see yourself, really get a true perspective on who are as a person, you need someone else. You need someone to react and respond to you. And most importantly, you need someone to give you honest feedback about your behavior. The feedback is what helps you grow, change and become a better person.

The same is true of a leader of a team. They need to see how they are behaving in order to grow. The problem is that usually most people they are in relationship with (their manager, employees and peers) are scared of telling them the truth.  Or if they do, the strong minded executive discounts it, thinking they know better.

So if you think the team is the problem, you need to hold up the mirror – get and listen to reality based feedback.

I have seen it so many times, over and over, that now anytime a leader hires us and says “I am not sure what it is, but the team just isn’t taking initiative”, I know this leader needs a mirror to see that it is him that is in the way.  

If you want a simple mirror to hold up and see what is it that is preventing your team from creating Swing (near perfect synchronicity), download the Swing Measurement Guide at www.thepowerofswing.com

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