Leaders are never self-made. If you want to go to the highest level, you can only do so with the help of others. The people closest to you determine your success or failure. Among the many decisions leaders make, one of the most important involves choosing the right companions.

Making the Band

As a budding young musician, John wanted to develop his talents as a performer. He quickly came to understand that he needed to form a band in order to hone his skills, so he recruited some schoolmates to join him. Calling themselves the Quarrymen, the group began to play at a variety of local gigs.  

The initial excitement of being in a band quickly waned, and John found himself stuck. He desired to go places in the music industry, but the Quarrymen weren’t having much success.  John hadn’t surrounded himself with the right people. Pete Shotton, the group’s washboard player, was incredibly shy. “I have no musical gene in my body,” Pete confesses, “and I wasn’t having fun. By then, John was starting to take things rather seriously, and I really wanted out. I just didn’t know how to tell him.” When Shotton finally mustered the courage to announce his defection from the group, John took the news poorly, smashing the washboard over Shotton’s head. Needless to say, the two no longer performed together after the incident.

While Shotton had little interest in music, the Quarrymen’s drummer, Colin Hanton, had little talent. “I wasn’t a very good drummer,” he acknowledges, “and [to keep pace with John] I would’ve had to dedicate my life to becoming good, which I wasn’t ready to do.” Eventually, Hanton’s lack of commitment became evident, and John asked him to leave the band.

Rod Davis played banjo for the Quarrymen. He had considerable talent, and his passion for music matched John’s devotion. However, John had begun to gravitate toward rock-and-roll whereas Rod preferred skiffle, a style of music closer to hillbilly blues. Given their differing tastes, the two decided to go in separate directions.

John did not let the setbacks deter him from his dream of becoming a professional musician. Determined to find the right bandmates, he met a bass guitarist and keyboardist named Paul, whom he recruited to join the group. He then came across an ultra-talented teenager, George, whom he invited to take the role of lead guitarist. The trio—John, Paul, and George—began writing and performing together. They cycled through various drummers before settling upon a suitable fourth member for the band—Ringo Starr. Finally surrounded by the right people, John Lennon’s dream of playing music professionally took flight, and his group, the Beatles, became the most popular band on earth.

Successful leaders don’t end up surrounded by superstars on accident. They proactively choose their company. Here are three questions to consider when deciding whether to invite someone to partner with you in pursuit of your vision.  

1) Does this person want to go?

Many people would rather be comfortable than influential. They simply have no desire to improve their leadership skills. Unwilling to learn and grow, they will hold you back from success.

Other people simply have interests that do not align with your vision. You may be able to persuade them to go along with you for a while, but eventually they will feel discontented and unhappy. Instead of expending precious energy trying to keep them motivated, respect their dissimilar interests and encourage them to pursue those interests elsewhere.

2) Is this person able to go?

To accomplish your vision, you’ll need to surround yourself with talented individuals. Some people do not have the giftings or skills to be able to make the journey with you.

3) Can this person make the trip without me?

Successful relationships require reciprocity. If you’re asking potential teammates to support your vision, then you must be prepared to add value to their personal development. At times, you may not be able to coach or mentor someone in the specific area where they’re looking to grow. They need expertise that you lack. In such cases, connect them to a leader who can help them reach their goals and start looking to replace them.

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