Over the course of his 40-year basketball career, famed Boston Celtics center Bill Russell won a remarkable 11 NBA titles, a league record. LA Lakers guard Magic Johnson won five himself, and was named NBA most valuable player (MVP) three times. And in his first year coaching the Pacers after retiring as Celtics forward, Larry Bird led his team to its best-winning percentage in the franchise’s history, and the NBA named him coach of the year.
And they’ve all got one thing in common, other than incredible acclaim: a commitment to team success above their own.
Before he acted, Russell measured his play by whether it helped the whole team play better. Johnson was recognized for his exceptional ability to run the team and get the ball into the hands of his teammates. Bird too had an incredible awareness of his team that helped him pass effectively as a player and lead effectively as a coach.
Of course, talent matters. Each of these players’ personal stats make them sports legends in their own right. But talent elevates us alone, while team leadership elevates the group, creating success that’s bigger than ourselves.
What Your Team (Really) Needs to Thrive
Whether you’re looking at a sports team, an army, a business, or a nonprofit organization, you just need these three things to lead a team to success:
1. UNITY OF VISION.
As the father of the American steel industry and one of the wealthiest Americans in history, Andrew Carnegie knew what it took to make things happen effectively. Of teamwork, he said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision – the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward oragnizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” In other words, teams can win when they are unified.
And teams can only win when they are unified, no matter how much talent or potential there is. A team doesn’t win the championship if its players have different agendas. That’s true in professional sports. It’s true in business. It’s true in churches.
2. DIVERSITY OF SKILLS.
It almost goes without saying that the team needs different sets of skills. Can you imagine a whole hockey team of goalies? Or a football team of quarterbacks? Nothing would get done. In the same way, team development requires diversity to succeed. And not only do teams need many kinds of skill sets, but communication styles, experiential backgrounds, and personality types.
3. A LEADER DEDICATED TO VICTORY AND TEAM DEVELOPMENT.
It’s true that having good players with diverse skills is important. As former Notre Dame head football coach Lou Holtz says, “You’ve got to have great athletes to win; I don’t care who the coach is. You can’t win without good athletes, but you can lose with them. This is where coaching makes the difference.” In other words, you also require leadership to achieve victory. Unity of vision doesn’t happen spontaneously. The right players with the property diversity of talent don’t come together on their own. It takes a leader to make those things happen, and it takes a leader to provide the motivation, empowerment, and direction required to win.
What about you? What do you really need to develop a team so that it can thrive?
As you may have heard, John Maxwell is known for saying that “everything rises and falls on leadership.” We can help you with that. Did you know that more than eleven years ago, John Maxwell started a special company to help leaders just like you thrive, who in turn develop teams that thrive? And that leadership development program can help you starting today. Click here to find out more.
This blog post has been adapted from John Maxwell’s leadership guidebook The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. If you’re looking for more personal growth and leadership insights, you can purchase a copy of this book here.