If there is any competitive aspect of leadership, it is usually a competition of one. We are measured by our performance against a goal, not in comparison to other leaders in the organization. If anything, each leader tries to beat their personal best track record or experience. The goal is always to be a better leader today than you were yesterday.
And yet, if your plan is to continue moving up the leadership ladder, you are absolutely in direct competition with your peers. And the competition is stiff. There are only so many titles with a C or SVP in front of them. You may not see yourself in direct competition to your peers, but the succession planning team does. With March Madness in full swing, I wonder what would happen if they viewed the leaders in your organization the same way we approach the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament?
Bracketology– If you were judged solely on your performance this year, what seed would you receive for the Leadership Tournament? The top 4 leaders with nearly perfect performance records would receive a 1 seed. Would you be in the top half of the field of leaders or would you be a leader “on the bubble” that barely made it to the tournament. Average performance will not get you to the big dance.
Fundamentals– No one makes it to the Tournament by accident. Hard work, self-reviews, gap identification, skill development, reflection, training, and experience all become evident “on the court.” When you’re in competition with the best leaders in your organization, the Fundamentals matter. This is where it becomes clear which high performing individual contributors “fell into” a leadership role by default and who was coached and groomed to be a leader. When you’re down by 5 points with 30 seconds left, it’s the Fundamentals that matter the most.
History Matters– In the NCAA tournament, there are certain teams that historically perform well. Bracketologists will tell you that even in an off year, historical experience in the big dance matters. Even a young, inexperienced team can surprise analysts when they’re led by a coach that has a long track record in the Tournament. Experienced leaders exude calmness and confidence and that reduces the stress level of their team. When things aren’t going according to plan, a seasoned leader can calm their team and redirect their focus to get back on top.
But History isn’t everything– A strong track record and wealth of experience will take any leader far. But it isn’t everything. A young, unknown leader can and will surprise the competition on their way up. Great leaders don’t let grass grow under their feet while new leaders work their way up the ladder. They keep driving. Keep practicing. Keep improving.
Heart matters– In the NCAA tournament, there’s always a Cinderella Story that captivates the media’s attention. Butler, VCU, Middle Tennessee…these teams seem to come from nowhere and experience a meteoric rise to the top. What they may lack in experience, funding, or support is heart. Their will to prove themselves and prove everyone else wrong drive their success. Internal drive can outweigh talent and experience any day.
Where do you land in the Leadership Bracket Challenge? Are you a Top Seed that seems to have a clear path to the Final Four or are you an underrated underdog with all the heart needed to unseat the Tournament favorite? How will you survive and advance to the next round?