Pied Pipers or Team Leaders: What Do Influencers Look Like in Your Organization?

The ranks of leadership are teeming with pied pipers—charismatic leaders whose magnetic personalities and extraordinary abilities draw a following of admirers. However, the goal of leadership isn’t to attract an entourage who will boost your ego, but to develop a team of leaders who will advance the vision of your organization. To develop the leaders around you, focus on helping them grow in three areas:

1. Choices

If you want immediate, positive results, help your people make smarter decisions. Whereas upgrading a skill requires intensive training and time-consuming practice, learning to make better choices can happen more quickly.

Choices surround us; we make thousands of them every day. Cumulatively, these choices determine our behavior. They dictate who we really are and what it is we truly value. As legendary coach John Wooden was fond of saying, “There is a choice you have to make in everything you do. So, keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.” Thus, by helping people make more intelligent choices, you are gradually shaping them into superior leaders.

2. Talent

For many projects, there’s simply no substitute for talent. For example, to win a high jump competition, you need one person who can leap seven feet—not seven people who can jump one foot. While most leaders understand the need for cooperative teamwork, some jobs won’t get done with excellence by throwing more people at them. These specialized tasks require the extraordinary talent of one person, not the mediocre talent of many.

When it comes to developing talent, let go of the idea that you need to treat everyone the same. To win championships, a basketball coach doesn’t divide playing time evenly or guarantee players an equal number of shots. Rather, the coach’s goal is to put the most talented performers on the floor, and to get the ball in the hands of the best players. Likewise, as a leader, give more time and resources to those team members who are the most successful.

3. Influence

Highly talented performers sometimes overlook the value of teamwork, but no one can go as high alone as they can in partnership with others. Your goal, then, isn’t just to develop leaders, but to coordinate their efforts and to synchronize their talents on a leadership team.

Avoid making your leadership team overly inclusive. Leaders size each other up, and they are quick to identify someone who lacks influence. When having to compensate for the shortcomings of a nonleader; high-capacity influencers lose morale. Production, not position, should be the criteria for membership on the leadership team.

When forming a leadership team, make sure each person’s place and purpose is crystal-clear. That is, everyone should be positioned in their area of strength, aware of one another’s expertise, and certain of where they have (and do not have) authority.

Finally, ensure that each person on the team exercises their influence to advance the vision and values of the organization and not just their own career. In order for teammates to buy in to the team’s vision and values, they must be able to participate in shaping them. In fact, the better the player, the more you need to give them ownership of their destiny.

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