Successful Leaders Put the Team First

There is a shift in the environment we all share. By environment I refer to the mental models and ideas shared by the majority of us at the same time. One of those tenets has been the model offered to young people about how to be a leader: pursuing personal goals, high energy, drive and ready to compete for the prize with others. Is this individualist attitude correct? By watching the progressive acceptance of the social crisis we are in, it looks like some of those leadership and personal success models are shifting.

In the Harvard Business Review Magazine, we found this article by Anne Morriss and others, who say that excessive focus on our own goals, interests and priorities is damaging to organizational objectives. In short, self-interest is not conducive to group success. Here is the quote:

“One leader we studied fell into this destructive behavior after a long, successful run at a number of software companies. Troy’s bosses had always valued his drive and accountability. But when customer complaints began pouring into the service division he was managing, he pinned the blame on the “mediocrity” of the product development division, claiming that his team had to support an inferior product.

Troy’s COO disagreed and began to hint that Troy’s job was on the line: After all, the complaints had started accumulating on his watch. To shore up his position, Troy started working to win over senior colleagues one by one—“picking them off,” as he put it—by asking for feedback on his performance. His strategy worked to some extent. Senior management recognized that he was committed to improving his leadership skills. But the customer service problems just got worse. People began trashing the company on influential blogs, and demands for refunds kept rising. The more Troy worked to save his job, the harder his job became.

Troy had a leadership breakthrough when one of his service representatives asked for help resolving the growing conflict with the product development team. The rep’s despair triggered a shift in Troy’s thinking—away from worrying about his own position and toward healing the split between the two divisions. Troy hosted a series of cross-team meetings and made sure that both groups felt heard. By the third meeting, the teams were brainstorming about ways to solve the service problem together, by improving the software and helping customers learn how to better use it.

Like other effective leaders, Troy changed his focus from protecting himself to supporting the members of his team and making sure that customers were happy. Within a few weeks, demands for refunds began to decrease, even though the company hadn’t yet made any upgrades to the product.

The decision to focus on others can feel dangerous. It forces you to take your eyes off your own welfare and to stop scanning the horizon for predators. Risk aversion is a protective mechanism wired into our DNA; that’s why security concerns generally trump impact. But all breakthrough leaders find ways to tame their security impulses. Most are amazed by the energy and meaning they discover when they no longer define themselves by their personal needs and fears.”

Quite a lesson. Being brave enough to think about the well-being of others (solving a conflict between team members) shifts the focus of this manager from his own goals, and even makes him take the such a risky position as being concerned about others!

It’s time that, even coming from very tame research papers from prestigious educational entities, we begin challenging the self-centered models that lead the social contract into failure and begin promoting more socially oriented mindsets. I’m glad to see that what redeems this manager is the always new and promising activity of peacemaking and conflict solving.

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Neil Warner

Neil Warner

I’m the “relationship guru,” and my main focus is to increase the quality of love-based relationship experiences. In this ground-breaking guide I offer useful strategies on healing a difficult angry relationship with love and compassion. You don’t have to stay in an unhealthy relationship one more minute. Let us share our tools with you today.We can begin by you having a complimentary consultation at Conflict Coach, with a plan for action to change your life with new skills included. Just click this link and get started now!


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