I’ve written before that leadership essentially is a combination of four skills; planning, communication, building teams and coaching. All are important, but at the moment, if I had to pick one, I’d say building teams is the most important. The best leaders get the best results because they consistently pick the best team members.
One of the incredible things about leadership is that it is able to turn visions and dreams into reality; it conjures things that do not yet exist into being. And leaders do that through discerning roles that can be done, and discerning people or team members to take on each of those roles.
So one of the most important responsibilities of a leader is in choosing the best team members for each role. The best leaders allocate capable people for taking on different roles, and when it works they can simply leave them to it. The not-so-good leaders either don’t delegate and so end up doing too much themselves, or they delegate to people who don’t or can’t carry through on their roles, and so constantly need to come back and sort out the problems this invariably throws up.
Recently I’ve read Alex Ferguson’s autobiography; the most successful football manager of recent times guided Manchester United to 38 trophies during his 26 years in charge there. Throughout the book it becomes clear that the most important work he did for United was constantly scouting for and recruiting the new talent that would fit into his teams. People now associate Fergie with being the manager par excellence at breaking up ageing teams, and being able to constantly create successful new teams. But Fergie made huge mistakes in some of the team members he recruited; Juan Sebastian Veron, Ashley Young, Diego Forlan, Jordi Cruyff, Klerberson and Eric Djemba-Djemba – all often considered huge flops. But he also recruited Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney – players who contributed hugely to the success of Manchester United, each giving years of quality service to the club.
The lesson for us? You won’t get every recruitment decision right. You might even make more recruitment mistakes than successes. But if you quickly move the less successful people off the team, and you get years of quality service from your good team decisions, you’ll be a successful leader who builds successful teams.
Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s a lay preacher and leader within the Methodist Church, author of a biography on John Wesley, and has a biography on William Wilberforce coming out in summer 2014. He enjoys good films, good food, praying for London, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markraynespark.