Leadership - Teamwork

Leadership - teamwork



The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.

Lee Iacocca
US automobile businessman (1924 - )

Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes.

Lewis Grizzard

The two quotes are interconnected.  The “boss” sets the pace, tone and culture of an organisation.  For them the scenery is constantly changing, but the scene for those behind them might not be the most tasteful.  Yet, the dogsled team will not operate very efficiently, if at all, if everyone does not do their own thing, in precision with all the others.  The lead dog can go anywhere if it weren’t for the handler on the sled checking they are on a course that has meaning and purpose.


In business the handler is the Board and the lead dog is the Chief Executive (or equivalent title).  The rest of the dog team are the workers that play a significant role in the success of the organisation.  The second placed dog is supposed to yap at the heels of the lead dog to make sure the pace is happening.  All the parts make the whole, and if you take one part away then the system doesn’t work.  Dogs are very hierarchical and will by nature follow the leader of the pack.  Equally when the leader of the pack shows weakness they are quick to pounce.  The leader of the pack has to fight for their role and keep the respect of the others to stay in the privileged position.  The moment the leader becomes complacent then the pack turns on them.  How true is this analogy for the business community?


In the June/July 2012 HRINZ magazine Robyn Hart writes about great managers having a culture of inclusiveness.  She identifies through quantifiable research four components to creating a great culture and therefore great productivity.  They are:

  1. Focus on talent and each person’s uniqueness
  2. Help employees feel valued
  3. Seek opinions and ideas and empower people to make positive changes
  4. Always treat people with respect.


What Hart is suggesting is such common sense it is hardly worthy of mention and yet experience shows that common sense does not apply to many organisations.  This last year I have been working as a contractor or sub-contractor for a number of organisations.  One such organisation has just lost one of the office staff.  The impact is going to be significant because she was the one who knew how to keep all the contractors happy, focussed and feeling valued.  One of the finance people who deal with the contractors has the complete opposite impact – he is so anal it drives everyone nuts: his behaviours make everyone feel undervalued and like they are a nuisance to the business.  There will be a cost in the loss of this valuable staff member.  A sound argument is that the organisation has lost the wrong employee.  If we go back to the dog sled analogy one out of control dog is disruptive to the team and no matter how fast the leader wants to go; energy, time and focus are lost because of the disruptive one.


I suspect that in many ways Lee Iacocca took his natural talents for granted.  In everything I have read about him, he cared for and listened to his people.  He was the one who inspired me years ago when he said the answers to every problem within an organisation are to be found within that same organisation.  In other words, give the people a voice and make sure they are heard.  You can get away with insincerity for only a short time.  Former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore once quipped: “Once you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.”  He knew that it was impossible to fake sincerity because eventually you will be caught out.  Within the dog pack they are constantly barking, encouraging each other to keep up with the pace of the leader.  The leader has a responsibility to operate at a pace that makes sure there is sufficient energy to get to the destination without break downs along the journey.  The judgement to get it right is wisdom, a leadership trait we will deal with further along the leadership path.  Another wisdom factor for the lead dog is to listen to the barking because other members of the pack will see, hear, sense dangers the leader has missed.  This aspect of listening and respecting everyone’s uniqueness and individual roll makes for a strong team.     


The above describes the leader being in tune with their organisation and people.  Fred Luthans in his book “Real Managers” talks about their being two types of managers – successful and effective.  Successful are those who climb the corporate ladder with ease; effective are those who have strong teams around them, but don’t get promoted easily.  Successful managers spend a large percentage of their time focussing on networking rather than their own team.  They don’t see huge value in their team liking or respecting them.  In reality we need managers to network and run successful teams to have successful organisations.  I know a number of CEO’s I have worked with who are superb networkers and cannot see how dysfunctional their own organisation is – this is the outcome of their own focus.  They focus on their own careers ahead of everything else, even though they cannot see or don’t want to see the organisational damage they are creating.

Where we focus our time and energy determines the outcomes we will obtain.  Focus on a good team culture and the odds are you will be successful in that realm.  Focus on your career and networking and you significantly increase the chances of obtaining that goal.  The best result is people who are good at developing teams and networking for the good of their own organisation as opposed to the good of the self.


  • How do you spend your time and with which focus?
  • How brutally honest are you prepared to be in answering the first question?