Today was another day of home improvement…hanging window treatments! In between taking measurements, looking for the Philip’s head driver, and dropping screws endlessly into the ground-level heat vent, I heard a comment from the San Francisco-Arizona game that struck me. Former NFL Coach Brian Billick made an interesting point about the kinds of players he wanted to avoid when he was coaching. He said that he “didn’t want players who can’t do what you ask them to do or can only do what you ask them to do.” I thought that was very insightful and worthy of a few comments with regard to leadership and development.
When I think about one of the main characteristics of a good leader I think about someone who has the ability to both develop people to do things the leader’s way AND allow people to do things their own way. Here is what I mean. Good leaders are able to impart a standard operating procedure that is both productive and acceptable and reflects the passion and philosophy of the leader. Yet, the leaders also must give people the ability to “spread their wings” and fly. There will be times for both. There will be times for conformity and innovation. Both are critical. No one wants a loose cannon and no one wants a robot. The leader must allow for ingenuity while insisting on appropriate boundaries. Great employees and volunteers come in all shapes and sizes. They come with different gift sets and passions. Some are motivated by the stick, some the carrot. Some require more standardization. Some need space. Your job is to get the “company policy” stickler to be creative and to get the pioneer to be accountable. That is tricky. If your tendency is tilted to either side, then you could be less effective with those under you who have a different bent.
In the NFL you want a quarterback who understands the game plan. You want a quarterback who understands the coach’s vision and seeks to impart that vision on and off the field. But you don’t want an automaton, someone who cannot improvise. You want someone who has the freedom to win either by rote or by whim. I think when you are hiring that you should look for people who have the emotional intelligence to stick with the plan but are able to flex when needed. I think that a wide variety of life experiences allows one to have the maturity to do this. Life is neither by rote or by whim. We have science and art, left brains and right brains. Well-rounded people will give you the best chance to succeed. It is hard to measure well-roundedness. I don’t know of any particular measurable in this area. This is where a great leader must have great instincts. Ask yourself, can this person do what I ask them to and know what to do when I don’t?
Think about this. Do you tend to “play by the book” too much or tend to “let it fly”? Are you able to lead others who are unlike you in this regard? How do you rein some in and kick others “out of the nest?”