50 Posts 50 Rules: Tom Peters on Leadership #6

6. The leader is rarely — possibly never? — the best performer.This is an interesting idea and is very true. Why would we assume that someone who leads needs to be the best at a specific topic other than leadership?! Leaders are good at leading and getting others to rally around a goal. They are the one that inspires others to go beyond the minimum to achieve greatness. You do not have to be an expert draftsman to lead a team designing a new product do you?

Coming back to our sports analogy from last post, why is it that the stars from hockey and football do seem to be captains of their teams? I believe the answer is not that different from our argument. Some athletes reach a level of excellence in their individual ability that they provide inspiration and an example through their actions. Further they have a achieved a competence level that they are able to look beyond their own role and look at the bigger picture of what the teams goal is and help others rise to the challenge. They are able to be individual performers and leaders. A rare combination but definitely possible.

Caveat: Then there is what I call the Paul principle. Never heard of it? Well it is my own (apologies to all the Paul’s out there I was going for an alliteration) Poor leaders promote strong performers regardless of leadership ability rather than strong leaders. Unfortunately when a weak leader promotes what is sure to be another weak leader, the enterprise suffers. Unfortunately to make matters worse the once strong performer will now struggle and potentially lose his reputation for performance. Moral here don’t let your ego decide, if you are offered a chance to lead others be prepared to lead and understand what you are getting into. 

Challenge: Poll five leaders as to what they are expert at. See if you do not find that their expertise is in areas different than their current responsibilities.

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