A good way to think of leadership is the process of freeing your team members to do the best work they possibly can. I have followed NBA basketball coach Phil Jackson’s career for some time.
In his career, Jackson has gone from coaching the record-setting champion Chicago Bulls to the present NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. He says his principal task is creating an environment in which his players can flourish. In communicating with his championship teams, Jackson convinced them that they had the talent to win championships and that the main goal of the coach was freeing them to use that talent.
Today’s business team members say they want, more than anything else, the autonomy to do their jobs without the boss’s interference. Nearly a decade into the new century, it’s already clear that the CEOs of our best-run companies believe that the more power leaders have, the less they should use.
The job of the team leader is to set a mission, decide upon a strategic direction, achieve the necessary cooperation, delegate authority and then let people innovate. To do that we all could take a hint from the late football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Before his retirement as one of the leading coaches in college football history at Alabama, Bryant observed:
"I’m just a plowhand from Arkansas, but I’ve learned how to put and hold a team together. I’ve learned how to lift some individuals up and how to calm others down, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat, together, as a team. To do that, there are just three things I’d ever have to say: If anything went wrong, I did it. If it went semi-good, then we did it. If anything went real good, then you did it! That’s really all it takes to get other people to win for you."
The key to authentic leadership is to listen to your followers, and then open the door for them to lead themselves. The secret is empowerment. The main incentive is genuine caring and recognition.
The five most important words a leader can speak are: “I am proud of you.”
The four most important are: “What is your opinion?”
The three most important are: “If you please.”
The two most important are: “Thank you.”
And the most important single word of all is: “You!”