I have led many groups of people for over 30 years. During that time, the teams I led experienced some great victories and some pretty ugly defeats. When reflecting on those wins and loses today, I thought about things I did that hurt our chances to succeed. There were times when . . .
- I didn’t clearly articulate the mission or objective.
The leader’s job is to define where the team needs to go. I have had some seasons in my life when I was unsure, and that left the team with no sense of purpose or direction. Then there were other times when I felt I had a good sense of where we were supposed to be going, but I didn’t spend enough time thinking through how to communicate it effectively. Both of these scenarios were death to my team.
- I didn’t live up to the ideals I said we were going to embrace.
As a leader, it is important to embody the core values of the organization. If I say we are all about serving the poor and then show no real compassion towards marginalized hurting people, I have failed my team. If I say no job is beneath any of us, but then I refuse to pick up garbage lying on the ground in the company parking lot, I have failed the team. If I say we put family first, and don’t live up to that credo, I have failed as a team leader. The leader’s words have to match his or her life, and when I have failed there, I have hurt my team.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said, “The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack.” As the leader goes, so goes the organization. I am grateful for the men and women who have chosen to be members of teams I have led through the years. We have had some amazing times. I wish I had always led them excellently. I didn’t, but I have learned. And, that’s all we can do. Keep learning and growing. And then you can live the big life you know you are supposed to be living.