Leadership is not a Spectator Sport

Not too long ago, I spent a few days with some friends who are senior product leaders and executives. I was seeking their advice, brainstorming possible ventures and catching up. In one of our conversations, one of them said, “Life is truly an adventure which means it’s not a spectator sport.”

I’ve thought about this and recognize if we are to leading a team, products or both, we have to be engaged and not sit on the sidelines.

A great example of someone not sitting on the sidelines was one of my first managers and mentors. When I was in high school, I worked for a small retail chain. John Martin was the general manager. From a high school kid’s perspective, he was a great leader and a pretty cool guy to work for.

What made John different? It was his attitude and approach to leadership. I still marvel at some of the accomplishments of his small, but diverse team. John’s team wasn’t loaded with experienced and senior people. It was a mixture of high school and college students, retail veterans and those who were willing to give what they could.     

In his post Hierarchy of Success , Seth Godin shares six points that should be a guide to our leadership

▪   Attitude

▪   Approach

▪   Goals

▪   Strategy

▪   Tactics

▪   Execution

I now realize that John Martin was implementing all six of the points above and was working, teaching and leading side-by-side each team member.  John was in the middle of the game. He had a game plan and was on the field and in the game each day.

John instilled a sense of ownership in every employee. When he was around he made sure you understood what the goals were, and how you could contribute to its success. He talked one-on-one with everyone, and always listened to customers. He wasn’t shy about making decisions that were right for his customers and knew what products would sell by actively listening to the market, and understanding what other competitors didn’t offer. 

When John wasn’t in the store, he automatically gave you ownership and everyone on the team could be counted on to do their part.

As we move into a new year, let’s take some time to review the six points and ask ourselves if we are “in the game in 2010 or just spectators on the sidelines.”

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