Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership

By Susan Schilke; April 1, 2022

We’re celebrating TeamStrength’s 30-year anniversary, and it all started this month, April 1992. All year, we’re sharing some of the wisdom that has resonated throughout the groups over the years. One of the hardest hitting messages woven through the decades has been this – if you’re upset about how your team or organization is performing, the first place to look is in the mirror.

‘Everything rises and falls on leadership.’ This quote from John Maxwell has been used in meetings in the last few years (thanks, Jared Mellick) as a reminder for a leader to start seeking solutions by first looking at his or her role in the problem. Sometimes the self-reflection is painful, but this is where great leaders start. In fact, Doug Worswick has a mirror in his office with these words:

When things are going well, look out your window and praise your team.
When things are not going well look at the mirror and hold yourself accountable.

TeamStrength members strive for this level of leadership accountability.

You can find countless lists and books about the key characteristics of great leaders. And TeamStrength leaders share many of these traits – they’re visionary, authentic, decisive, innovative and strategic. Here are three others I’ve seen that truly elevate leadership. The best leaders are:

Collaborative. TeamStrength leaders fully embrace the superpower that is collaboration. The best ideas, strategies, solutions, and action plans evolve through a meeting of the minds. Good ideas become great, effective strategies are fine-tuned and improved, solutions become clearer, and action plans become detailed and bulletproof, with options for testing and Plan Bs as needed. The power of collaboration is achieved when each contributor brings ideas and suggestions they believe in, but realize the best options will reveal themselves through the process of collaboration. As a leader, this requires a balance of adding your well-informed comments to the discussion, without ego or attachment to your ideas. When you have a group of leaders with this mindset, the product of collaboration is always superior to any one individual’s contribution. It requires an open-mindedness and humility that surprisingly seems to be found only in the most confident leaders.

Empathetic. This may be the most critical leadership trait that rarely shows up on the numbered lists. The ability to truly connect with others requires empathy, and great leadership requires a true connection to the team. Empathy is the ability to tap into your own experiences to relate to the experience of someone else. Being willing to be vulnerable is a key. At its heart, empathy is listening with compassion and connecting to how another person is feeling, while conveying that they’re not alone. That type of connection creates trust and loyalty like nothing else.

Resilient. Every leader will face challenges and setbacks, and the best leaders recover quickly from difficulties and face the challenges head on. I’ve been amazed over the years at the resiliency demonstrated by TeamStrength members. Members have faced personal loss, life-threatening illness, and dramatic business setbacks, and they just consistently meet these with grace and strength. This was most apparent in 2020, when the world was sent reeling in the face of a pandemic. There was so much fear and uncertainty in the early weeks, and everyone was simultaneously knocked a bit flat. Our members were the first to stand up, dust themselves off, and start mapping a way out of it.

The current environment will demand the best from leaders. As TeamStrength members, continue to challenge one another to start with the leader in the mirror. And continue to use collaboration, empathy and resiliency to build your team and company’s success.

Thank you, members, for the many lessons you’ve taught me over the years. We are honored to play a role in your continued development.