The most popular motivational speakers used in company team-building meetings are sports heroes: MVP football players, Heisman Trophy winners, and the stars of yesteryear teams are commanding big bucks to tell you and your team how to be a winner. I believe most executives picture themselves as great quarterbacks leading their teams to victory. Is that your reality—are you truly a good team leader?
Many executives have no innate ability to admit failure. Great sports heroes fail nightly. There is not one NFL game in which Drew Brees or Tom Brady doesn’t make a throw they wish they could take back. When they make a bad throw, do these guys blame the wide receiver or their offensive line? No, they point to themselves and tell their teams they will do better. When is the last time you heard an executive do that when they made a bad decision? I’ve never heard it.
Executives make bad decisions every day, but 90% of the time they blame the failure on some guy who didn’t execute the plan. What a lot of executives don’t want to admit is that the Almighty himself couldn’t make some of those business plans successful because they were terminally flawed from the beginning. That is the reason why the building material supply portion of the cemetery is filled with so many national suppliers.
Another characteristic of truly great athletes is their unselfish act of not taking credit for success. Ask any great running back about his success and he will tout the great offensive line who blocked for him. In fact, most great running backs let their offensive linemen spike the ball in the end zone. Who spikes the ball in your end zone when your company has a success? Do you give credit to those who truly caused the success, or do you credit it all to your idea? Most executives want the credit for anything good but not the responsibility for anything bad.
In the sports world, the struggle to make the team, injuries, mistakes, and short-term careers make a lot of people humble—even the great ones. They realize it could all be over tomorrow. Humility is a big part of being a sports hero, but it is a characteristic that most executives don’t have or even understand. Egos and arrogance that cause them to deem themselves the smartest in the room undermine their ability to stay in reality. Truly great leaders never forget where they came from and always remain grateful for what has been given to them.
The biggest difference between most executives and sports superstars is the ability to do what is best for the team. Executives are faced with decisions every month that directly affect their pay; more times than not, the decision made will benefit the executive’s pay instead of what is best for the company.
In sports, it is more often what is best for the team. That is the reason why so many independent dealers thrive longer than national suppliers. An independent dealer’s executive view is much longer than the next quarterly report, as most plan on being at their jobs five years later.
I admit it, when I meet a great sports celebrity I get somewhat giddy. I think sports heroes often are invited to company meetings just so the boss can get a picture and signed ball to show off, which makes it more about them and less about their team. However, if we truly listen and apply what those superstars say, it really does help. Are you willing to make the changes needed to be a great team leader?