Okay, I confess that I am a secret Star Trek fan and maybe I was looking for a way to insert my guilty pleasure into our discussion on leadership. I think you will find though, that this is a good fit for this topic.
Perhaps the number one characteristic of good leaders is that they produce other good leaders – they multiply. To quote Tom Peters, author of “In Search of Excellence” - “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.” In today's competitive market this is a crucial advantage for businesses.
The reason for this revolves around the practice and concepts of continuous improvement. One of the foundational concepts of continuous improvement is the need for innovation. Not just innovation but a constant flow of innovation. How does this relate to leadership? Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, sums it up this way; “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” As leaders we can develop followers who will be very good at following and will for all intent and purpose do what they are supposed to do. But great leaders develop other leaders who will not only do what they are supposed to do but constantly be on the lookout for ways to innovate and improve.
Why is this important? Followers react, leaders anticipate. In today's market that may well be the difference between surviving and bankruptcy. When you develop a team to be leaders in their own right you create a group who are able to anticipate and innovate rather than react. We understand that reacting places you at a disadvantage because it confirms you are already one step behind.
I won’t kid you, this is hard! For most of us this seems counter-intuitive. It means you have to look for people who are smarter than you and then invest in them for success. The hard part is overcoming the fear that in doing this you put your position at risk. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. In researching the top reasons for leaders failing some of the leading reasons were as follows; Leaders become selfish or greedy, they become reactive, they stop developing the team members. You will note that nowhere in this list is the idea that they developed people who took their jobs. In fact, it is just the opposite, failure to develop or multiply the leadership in your team is a leading cause of failure!
How then does this relate to the Borg? In the Star Trek series, the Borg was an alien race that operated from a collective base of knowledge that they grew by assimilating other cultures. Fashioned like a giant matrix each member had access to that knowledge base and as such they were able to react and learn from threats quite quickly which made them almost unbeatable. (Know any companies like that?)
Yet for all their knowledge they lacked a key advantage; innovation. The Borg had access to knowledge and could respond quickly which initially gave them the upper hand. Yet their weakness was in the fact that they could not anticipate or innovate. They did not have leaders they had followers and that initial advantage in terms of knowledge and speed of reaction could not overcome the group that could anticipate and innovate.
Great leaders multiply leadership in and through their team. In so doing they grow and develop teams who can anticipate and innovate which I submit is THE biggest advantage a business can have over its competitors. It is also a key feature of continuous improvement and the reason the Borg will never win. Work to develop the leaders in your team and in case I forget, in the words of Spock, “live long and prosper!”