A company fails to achieve its potential when the Founder/CEO feels consistently compelled to come to the rescue, saving the day by making every decision and solving every problem.
“Hero-led businesses” are fragile and often fail because they don’t tap their team’s collective intelligence and capabilities. The opportunity and benefit of team performance is sucked out of the organization when the leader plays the hero. Hero-leadership diminishes the organization’s intellectual capital and constrains growth and value.
What Causes a Leader to Become Heroic?
Heroic leaders, faced with scaling a business, rely on skill sets and behaviors that initially made them successful. Self-reliance often promotes the belief that “[they] cannot get the job done without my help.” The source of this behavior comes from a lifetime of taking action to succeed and the accolades that come from individual initiative. Conditioned to believe that they have to be better, faster, and smarter than their competitors and teammates, heroes find it difficult to ‘let go.’
In contrast, leaders of team-led companies focus on designing the game of business for others to play. They find ways to satisfy their need for accomplishment by letting other leaders take center stage. Leaders must evolve from the hero and instead design a team-led culture and company.
The Mindset Shift
Abandonment of the hero-led business begins with a mindset shift. It happens when the hero leader builds a team of ‘A’ players and creates a team culture. Next, the leader must delegate 90% of the business’s day-to-day operations and get out of their way. Scaling the leadership team’s accountability and capability is the essential step in growing an organization. Meanwhile, it frees the hero leader to spend more time on vision and strategy.
“The real difference between success and failure in a corporation can often be traced to how well the organization brings out the great energies and talents of its people.” Thomas Watson, Jr. IBM
Leaders of Team-led organizations learn to empower others all they are able. It does not mean they delegate everything. Nor do they merely hire great people and abdicate complete responsibility, assuming they will do “right things right.” They take ownership overseeing the most important things, including organizational alignment, culture (values and purpose), mission, vision, strategy, processes, transparency while delegating everything else.
Team of Teams
In his book, “Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement in a Complex World,” four-star General Stanley McChrystal recognized a rapidly changing environment. A superior US military was getting their butts kicked by Al Qaeda, who was too agile, nebulous, and rapidly evolving for the traditional top-down military command and control paradigm. To stay ahead of insurgents, US leaders had to assess intelligence, make decisions, and issue orders differently.
McChrystal realized he had to evolve how the military had traditionally operated and launched an intensive multi-year effort to break down the existing silos among soldiers, analysts, and support personnel to create autonomous, cross-functional teams. Relying on communication and influence (rather than command and control), he fought to end a reliance on secrecy and need-to-know intelligence. Instead, he built a new culture based on transparency and decentralized decision-making across departments.
To speed up decision making, he delegated decisions to the forces closest to the action. He reinforced positive behaviors by demonstrating to the teams that if they were transparent in their decisions and activities, and followed a set of core operating principles or values, it would give them tremendous autonomy to make on-the-spot decisions and complete their respective missions. But if a team were found to have held back information, operated rogue, or violated core principles, he would drop the hammer of military justice on their heads.
It worked. The changes made transformed the Joint Special Operations Command into an agile, cross-functional, and significant fighting force.
Information exchange, transparency, and delegation of authority represent the design change in General McChrystal’s organizational structure. What was created was “shared consciousness” across the organization.
As General McChrystal stated in Team of Teams, “The move-by-move control that seemed natural to military operations proved less effective than nurturing the organization — its structure, processes, and culture — to enable the subordinate components to function with ‘smart autonomy.’”
Changing from Hero to Team
Rather than relying on authority, the leader of Team-led organizations depends on feedback, communication, relationships, and influence to sense and respond to environmental signals from within and outside the organization. They are continually reflecting on the more significant questions facing the organization and its teams:
- Vision and strategy alignment; are we making appropriate changes/pivots?
- Does our current functional structure have proper checks and balances? Are we missing any core functions for our long-range development and short-range execution? If so, where do we need to make a change?
- Culture strength and resiliency. Are any changes necessary?
- Strength of talent. What is the advantage of our leading, hiring, coaching? What does the employee net promoter score indicate? Are any shifts necessary?
Becoming a team-led organization is a process of you [the leader] letting go. It is about delegating operational work and freeing yourself to focus on the most important things. It is a shift to stop being expert and doer and start focusing on shaping your ecosystem. It is to stop thinking, “they cannot do it without me.” To start thinking, “they are smart. They will figure it out.” This evolution will require a new definition of how you [the leader] will define your significance.
This transition frees the hero leader to help the company achieve its vision while maximizing the team’s ability to work together to solve problems and make critical decisions as a cohesive unit.
Are you ready and committed to evolving from Hero-led to Team-led? Take the Tenfold Teams Growth Readiness Assessment, and a Tenfold Coach will reach out to discuss your results.