On February 21, I posted a blog entitled “The Big 3,” which listed the top three traits of great leaders. Shortly thereafter, I realized I had missed an important ingredient. In my March 29 newsletter, I referenced an article entitled “Three Profiles in Organizational Humility,” by Patrick Lencioni. This was the same newsletter in which I included comments about Brady Hoke and Tom Izzo. That got me thinking, and I am officially adding humility to the list of the top traits all great leaders possess. In fact, one of my colleagues suggested it might even be the foundation for the other three. But whether it is the underpinning of the original three traits I listed or whether it is the first of four traits is not important. What is important is that every great leader I have personally known for an extended time (i.e., decades) checks their ego at the door. Jim Collins, the business expert and author, says Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. And that most definitely requires a sense of humility.
A number of years ago I was on a plant tour, which I really love to do. When we arrived at a particular machining station, the owner asked the operator to explain what the machine was doing. The operator gave the most complete explanation I had ever heard, including the business case for purchasing this $250,000 machine. After she completed her explanation, I made the comment that she really knew a lot about this piece of equipment. Her response was that she had researched it and had recommended that the company purchase it. Later on, as I was reflecting on our conversation, I thought of this rhetorical question: “Do you think the operator was motivated to get that new equipment up and running smoothly fast?” How about you — do you create an environment where your associates behave as if they were the owners? Perhaps you should think about giving them the responsibility to act. If they feel empowered to act on behalf of the company, their sense of personal investment can move the entire organization further ahead, faster.
I was in a meeting one day, listening to all the problems resulting from the sudden growth of a business. As the conversation continued, many of the comments and observations became quite negative. You would have thought the company was having a bad year. During a pause in the discussion, I mentioned that in my experience, whether you are doing really well or performing poorly, there are always problems. I shared that I have decided it is a lot better to deal with problems during the good times. This seemed to change the mood of the team for the better. Do you keep a pulse on the perspectives of your team?