Sunday, January 22, 2012

Take Me to Your Leader

One of the shining moments in 2011 was Game 6 of the NBA Finals, when the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat to win the NBA Championship.  It does not get old watching that video clip.

In 1992, when my wife and I moved to Dallas, the Mavs were flirting with the futility mark set by the '72 Philadelphia 76ers, who went 9-73.  In the words of Charles Barkley, it was turrible.  We were actually in the stands when they won the 10th game, avoiding infamy.  We were jumping, screaming and hugging people in the stands that we didn't know.  We might as well have been shouting, "We're not the worst!  We're not the worst!"  The years from 1992 until Mark Cuban came along were tough, but victory tasted sweeter last year, because the team had come from so far down.

Stuart Scott says to Mark Cuban, "We're very short, you, me and JJ..."
What was the difference from the 2010-2011 Mavs and the 2005-2006 Mavs who lost to the Heat in the finals?  Did they need to live through losing in the Finals before they could win?  Was Rick Carlisle a better coach than Avery Johnson?  Did Cubes show more calm and that helped the Mavs focus more on the games?  Did Dirk elevate his game substantially?  Were his teammates substantially better?  Was it all-of-the-above?  I would contend it was some combination and more, and with successful teams it does not matter.  Separating the individual elements of a team's success is meaningless.  That does not prevent every individual from assessing their performances and setting goals to improve, but accomplishing the team goal is all that matters.

Sometimes the team is much more than the sum of its parts.

Leading in business is quite the same.  Its takes all kinds to make up a great team, and the important part is a single-minded focus on the big goal and to know how to communicate, motivate and grow through both good and bad situations.  When the team wins, some will benefit more than others.  That is natural with meritocracy, but everyone needs equal recognition and fair consideration.  As leaders, though, the most important lesson is that a leader is only as good as their team.  The leader is inseparable from the team.

As leaders, the dangers of putting ourselves above the team are substantial in terms of loyalty, motivation, and loss of leadership equity which is the core catalyst at dynamic companies.  Yesterday, I received a message via LinkedIn from an old friend who worked with me at my first startup.  He sent me a fascinating research paper on the extreme affects when leaders lose this perspective, and how it can affect their decision making based on the wrong criteria.

Sometimes, as leaders, with success, the way to get the most credit is to take none.


  1. And "none" is the artificial intelligence in the world of stupidity. BTW, I'm very impressed with Dirk's improvement over the past years. He just keeps getting better.

    Alexander Tiedeman

  2. He has. Had a slow start this season, but his improved defense does not get the credit it deserves. Not to mention the one-legged fallaway that Durant and Kobe are trying to implement, now.