Newsletter 618 – A Genuinely Fresh New Perspective on Leadership

Team of Teams 2New leadership books appear almost every week. But it’s unique and refreshing to read a new, in-depth voluMcChrystal 3me, based on both experience and research, setting a new paradigm for leadership in the twenty-first century. Such is the new book by General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of all American and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Co-authored with two former U.S Navy SEAL officers and a very articulate scholar currently at Cambridge University, this book describes how old models of leadership, popular and successful for centuries, have been forced to change in an era of instant Internet communication and terrorist tactics. The book describes how the military has needed to change but demonstrates how these changes must apply equally to corporations, professions like medicine, organizations and anyplace else where leadership occurs.

This book is too rich, innovative and stimulating to summarize in a few sentences. Here is the background: McChrystal was put in command of what undoubtedly was one of the best-trained and disciplined military forces ever assembled. But the enemy terrorists kept winning, manned with relatively untrained individuals and small groups who appeared from nowhere to blow up shopping malls, military installations, schools and other targets. Then these perpetrators would be gone. They had mastered the use of free and accessible technology to communicate instantly before they died or disappeared. Almost overnight the elements of warfare that McChrystal learned in the military academy were largely powerless against a new kind of cyber-sophisticated and connected enemy. Especially irrelevant was the old micromanagement and chain of command that defined the military and still dominates so much of our culture.

As I read I thought of leadership in higher education and adult learning, including ministry and counselor education. So-called leaders still micromanage, set visions and expect others to comply, follow the rigid innovative-squelching guidelines of accrediting agencies, and fail to see that a new technological age requires new methods, skills and leadership. This is reflected in the title of the book by McChrystal and his colleagues: Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. Commands and guidelines from the top of a hierarchy are too slow. Models for counseling, ministry or coaching don’t always work. Individuals, teams and groups of teams throughout the system must be equipped and empowered to make quick decisions on their own. They need a new kind of leadership.

Have any of you read this new book? Even if you have not, please comment.

To hear an interview with General McChrystal go to:

Newsletter #495 – What Makes a Great Team?

Especially in the early years of his career, basketball star Michael Jordan was criticized because he dominated his team and often ignored the other players as he ran up points largely on his own. When his coach complained, apparently Jordan responded with this: “There may not be an I in team but there is in win.” In a new book by Mark DeRond, the author summarizes research about high performance in sports, business and other team relationships. The book, There Is an I in Team has relevance beyond athletic and business teams. Here are empirically-based highlights that you may find interesting.

  • A basketball team without superstars rarely makes it to the playoffs, let alone the finals. Winning is more likely when there are superstar team members.
  • Qualities that make team members gifted also make them wearisome as team members. Superstars are “extraordinarily focused” along with their unusual competence but this also leads to perfectionism, paranoia, discontent, big egos, impatience and irritating behaviors that make them difficult to work with.
  • Harmonious relationships actually can hurt team performance. Without internal competition teams may underperform. Competition weeds out inefficiency. More important than harmony is the ability to trust and rely on one another when there’s a common goal.
  • There is a key to effective teamwork: if each person is capable, give them something to care about more than themselves.
  • Likability is more important than competence in making someone a desirable team member. If a person is strongly disliked “it is almost irrelevant whether or not he or she is competent.”
  • Money matters. Payroll and performance are highly coordinated.
  • Superstitions, including “luck-producing” rituals, are not necessarily bad. They help reduce performance anxiety and “enhance focus and the chances of success.”
  • In selecting effective team members, a coach or team leader’s intuition often is a better predictor than objective measures.
  • Restlessness and discontent are the “single most distinguishing features of high performers.”  Despite their bravado, many superstars experience an “imposter syndrome,” mystified by their own success, feeling like a fraud, afraid they are not as good as everyone believes.

Much of this is both fascinating and controversial. Please leave a comment. Does anyone besides me sometimes experience the imposter syndrome?