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Leadership Series IV Fear of Competition from Followers

The fourth of Napoleon Hill’s 10 Major Causes of Failure in Leadership, is the Fear of Competition from Followers:

“The leader who fears that one of their followers may take their position is practically sure to realize that fear sooner or later. Able leaders train understudies to whom they may delegate at will. Only in this way may leaders multiply themselves and prepare to be at many places, and give attention to many things, at one time. It is an eternal truth that people receive more pay for their ability to get others to perform than they could possibly earn by their own efforts. Efficient leaders may, through knowledge of their jobs and the magnetism of their personalities, greatly increase the efficiency of others, and induce them to render more service and better service than they could themselves.”

In a highly political organization, leaders at all levels are tripping over themselves in attempts to get noticed by the higher-ups to hasten their upward trajectory. To this end, these types of leaders will often seek to hire people for their team that pose no threat to their supposed status within the organization, and in fact, hire down so that their own abilities can shine.

This tactic, of course, is short-sighted, lacking in commitment to the common good, and is in the longer-term, a form of self-sabotage. In healthy and smart organizations, what is measured and rewarded are results. Effective leaders understand that what matters are outcomes, not whether they look good and stand above. The latter is the work of insecure, fearful and self-interested leaders—any advancement they attain will be short-lived.

My very first career job was at the flagship property of a luxury hotel company in a very junior supervisory role. I found myself in the ‘ground zero’ of senior leaders, middle managers and juniors, all working hard to get noticed by head office. In fact, that was the very purpose of the game. Come to the head office property, do what you can to get yourself noticed, position yourself for the next plum promotion and transfer to sunnier climes.

It was a highly political, and often unpleasant, environment for a young, inexperienced manager with few identifiable role models. Any culture that existed was in reality mostly toxic and contrary to the company’s core values. Sadly, those in charge didn’t always recognize this. Managers got noticed for such ‘noble’ achievements as taking on the union, successfully terminating a long-term employee or cleaning house.

I'm not saying these actions aren’t necessary in certain circumstances, but they must be done in alignment with guiding principles and in service to the greater good of the company, the customer, and its people, not for self-promotion. Team successes were owned and flouted by department heads and failures were gladly shared, with junior managers and hourly employees often the scapegoats.

When I left that role and joined a growing, progressive group of casual-dining restaurants, it was like walking into an upside-down world, compared with my previous experience. Everything was about building a strong, healthy culture and constantly reinforcing alignment of the culture at all levels of the organization. It was understood that the best team wins.

In order to reach company objectives, including financial, the entire model centered around hiring great people, coaching and developing them, growing future leaders and being focused on results. That was how you got noticed as a manager.

It blew my mind when the Vice-President came to the location I had recently taken over as General Manager and stated that his first and only criteria for measuring my value as a leader would be my ability to select great people, develop them well and build depth of talent throughout the business. He did not mention ‘cleaning house’, making needed product and service quality improvements, fixing up the physical environment or securing much-needed gains on the bottom line.

To me, this was a stroke of genius. Managers were measured on their ability to select great people. Full stop! And why this focus? Because you will never secure the results, make needed improvements, deliver bottom-line profit without a strong, deep and talented team. If you hire great people, the results will come. If you don’t, no matter how hard and long you work, you will fall short.

The key component here is that you, as a leader, need to check your ego and sense of self-importance at the door and empower your people to perform to their potential. If your people run circles around you in doing so, then, bravo, everyone wins! Performance, quality, and results will naturally improve, and the culture will be smarter and healthier as a result.

To truly taste success, leaders must not only embrace competition and strength from members of their team, but must hire and develop those who have complementary strengths. Doing so will both boost the strengths and balance the weaknesses of leaders. This requires confidence, a clear understanding of common objectives and a considerable amount of self-awareness.

“To build a strong team you must see someone else’s strength as a complement to your weakness, not a threat to your position or authority.” Christine Caine, Founder – Propel Women

Great leaders will regularly take an honest, personal inventory and assessment to be clear on likes, dislikes, what they are good at and what they are not. Using a tool (such as that shown below) to plot your strengths and weaknesses can provide tremendous insight into what activities you should be doing and what activities you should be moving to someone stronger.

This will lead to a balanced team where key players know their roles, are playing to their strengths, and as a result, are making the greatest possible contribution to the greater good of the business.

Again, it appears that what was true to Napoleon Hill in 1937 pertains strongly to today.

As Warren Buffet says, “surround yourself with people that push you to do better. No drama, no negativity. Just higher goals and higher motivation. Good times and positive energy. No jealousy or hate. Simply bringing out the absolute best in each other.” To succeed, leaders must not fear competition but encourage a healthy form of it. The lesson here is that as a leader, you must:

· Hire and develop people who are great at what you are not good at and do not like

· Delegate clear responsibilities to those people

· Empower the team

· Get out of their way

· Measure progress

· Hold everyone accountable

Doing these things will allow you to elevate yourself to where you can be happier and make the greatest contribution to the greater good of the team and the business.

Until next time!

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