smart people leading smarter people

“Among the leadership practices we observed were:”

1. Leader as talent-scout

All of the teams that we studied featured a leader who devoted substantial time and energy to identifying potential talent.

2. Listening rather than telling
If you assemble all-stars at each position and pay the premium for doing so, then listening should be the leader’s most important activity.

3. Focus on collaboration and an exchange of ideas (not idea-hoarding)
Ideas have value only if they’re shared. All our teams succeeded because they shared rather than protected ideas.

4. “Fail faster to succeed sooner” [2]
When facing big risks, taking small ones frequently allows a team to move faster and with less chance of catastrophic failure. The use of “prototypes” is a different way of learning, and all of our teams used experimentation and failure to achieve fast-learning.

5. Challenge ideas not the “person”
Virtuoso teams thrive on direct, and impolite, challenges to ideas, without diminishing the individuals. … Comic genius Sid Caesar and his virtuoso writing team, which included Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, were challenged to create a new show every week. They wanted every show to be memorable, and their slogan became: Polite teams yield polite results!

6. Let individuals soar
Perhaps in our efforts to be inclusive, we’ve allowed the “we’s” to so dominate the “I’s” that we’ve wound up “just average”? If you go to the trouble and expense of finding and recruiting great people, let them be great. Don’t bend them to fit the team.


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