Miracle on Ice, Team, Leader, Andrew Stein, SteinVoxI always receive comments from so many via email. It’s the Team, Not Just the Leader, my post from yesterday, was no exception. WordPress and its plugin community have not created a solution to pull those into the thread on this blog, yet!

An opportunity to share the most profound lesson I have learned in my career (over two decades ago) presented itself on the LinkedIn group, CEO Network that I shared my 7 word mantra: “It’s the team, not just the leader.”

That sparked a query from a new colleague in Singapore who after reviewing my LinkedIn profile, shared a thought with me, and asked a question. After writing the response, it seemed apropos to share it here. Unless my colleague reads this and asks me to add his name, I’ve given him anonymity.

Team, Not Just the Leader

Do most people recall who the coach for the Miracle on Ice was?  Sure some do, but most today, do not. Many don’t even recall that it was in 1980, and it was in Lake Placid, New York that the game was held. We recall the achievement of the game, and that it was the team that executed the skill it took to win. Do we know that there were weak links that day? Sure there were. It’s all relative. The team filled the gap, and got the task done. This will make sense as you read.

Sent: Friday, 31 May, 2013 6:46 PM

Subject: Single most valuable lesson

Dear Andrew,

I like your comment:  It’s the team, not just the leader.

In fact, the team is only as strong as the weakest link. Worst is – If the team has a tiny hole in it, which is not normally seen by the top and not fixed by any other team member who should take the initiative to plug it – then the “whole ship” sinks.

By the way, your profile in LINKEDIN is impressive.  Will you be able to share with me how you:

“GUIDANCE: As a board member, advisor & coach, I challenge creative thinking via arm’s-length influence to foster strategic change or new business model thinking.”?

With thanks & Kind Regards, V

There’s some deep thought here on the concept of balancing servant leadership with teaching and accountability. Some things we do are not readily easy to describe. I did my best to respond. And, challenge readers to comment on how they too, engage and pull the best creativity from executive teams without engaging too deeply.

Dear V,

Thank you for your kind words, and the initiative to send a note.

Teams are a lifetime area of study, to be sure. While strength is often limited by the weakest link, in the long run, I have found teams able to pull together and fill that gap.  We are all the weak link, from time to time. Great teams I’ve been part of, have pulled the weak link for that day through, and nurtured them, as opposed to cutting them out and leaving them behind.

Of course, chronic and persistent team member weakness needs (and should) to be addressed from time to time.

As for the sentence from my profile, this is one of those things that is difficult to explain. I may have to write a book someday on it. The sentence is the well-crafted thread of phrases that emphasizes the need for stretching further to learn and gain knowledge. Many do this naturally through challenging themselves and others around them to engage in creative thinking, over the rote.

As a board member or advisor, it’s imperative to keep this guidance at arm’s-length. One good approach is asking more questions than providing answers. This stimulates creative development of unique solutions from within. Those leaders one mentors can feel the greatest ownership of ideas when they are led to come up with them on their own.

Their seemingly impossible ideas, developed through challenging questions from their board, become achievable ideas. Like steel, ideas are strengthened through this tempering process. In business, creative solutions then begat new and interesting delivery and marketplace exchange (value for fees).

I know that’s not the answer you may have been looking for in asking “how” I do this. There is no recipe I can put my finger on. I can say that it’s not always easy. The questions are natural and the greatest effort goes into the care and tact required for delivery. Some leaders want their board to tell them what to do. Those in guidance roles must stand back, and avoid the temptation to “do” when in the role of board member and advisor they must “gently lead.”

If I had to put an answer into words, I would say deliberate questions and constant discovery are critical. The answer will come from the team, the customer (the extended team) or from outside – from the crowd, where you least expect to find it.

The really exceptional breakthroughs never come from inside the executive suite. The truly disruptive game changers are born out of collaborative, iterative, pervasive and extended effort. They feed on each other gaining momentum. Then they surface, you see them, and ask the question, “what if we…?”


Andrew John Stein

Pervasive Strategy Group

To Ponder

Arm’s-length influence. How do you do it?  It’s one more thing they don’t teach in B-school!

Thanks for reading.

Image Credits: Aaron Danielg, via Wikimedia Commons, Photo of the arena taken in 2005, 25 years later.

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