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The Exception To No Bad Team, Only Bad Leaders , pages 151-153

Part One: Leadership Strategies, 3. Principles, H. The Exception To No Bad Team, Only Bad Leaders, (pages 151-153)

H. The Exception To No Bad Team, Only Bad Leaders

In the book Extreme Ownership, the author states that there are “no bad teams, only bad leaders.” This statement has been supported by many important historical figures including Napolean and U.S. Army officer and author David Hackworth. However, there is one exception to this statement. While a bad team is definitely the fault of the leader, the converse is not always true. That is, a good team is always the result of a good leader. While most times this is true, there are occasions when a team succeeds despite having poor leadership. This occurs when there are unofficial leaders within the subordinate ranks. “The subordinate leaders have found ways to lead without offending the structural leader because the structural leader might not be able to deal with someone below them in the chain of command running things.” Two scenarios can play out. First, the leader is oblivious to the unofficial leaders and the team succeeds. Second, the leader is aware of the subordinate leaders and has the humility to allow it. However, either way, the leader is not the cause of success. This becomes critical for the next leader up the chain of command to understand who is responsible for the success of the team. “Because teams and organizations are not stagnant. Things change. Tasks shift. Missions are altered.” When this occurs and personnel needs to move, the leader must understand who has been ultimately driving success to effectively create new teams.

In one of my previous positions, the situation did somewhat mirror this section. I would describe my boss's leadership style as laissez-faire. While the district was successful, it did not seem to be the direct result of my boss. This put me in a challenging position of supporting the effective hard work of the team members while also being loyal to the leader. I asked a mentor about this type of situation and he responded that I needed “lead up”. As new to my position, I felt a little out of sorts “leading up” to a person who had been in their position for many years. However, this was exactly what I needed to do. I met with the informal leaders and started a dialogue about what they felt were the most important situations that needed to be addressed and how they would proceed. I would then meet with my boss to inform them of those situations and offer suggestions (which came from the unofficial leaders). Almost always, an agreement was made on how to proceed that aligned with the informal leader’s suggestions. This type of dialogue worked well for the district as it continued to move forward and our leader felt in control. As for leading up, I sensed it was more of a matter of keeping my boss informed, providing options, and supporting the decisions made. In the future, while it is not a position I would voluntarily put myself in, I have found there is a successful option of “leading up”.

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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