There is no “I” in team. Yes, but there is a “me”. If you’re leading a team, no one cares about your passion except you. What does everyone else care about? Their own passions of course. Why would you expect anything different? Now, this isn’t a bad thing — in fact, just the opposite — if everyone is passionate about the same thing. You’d expect everyone on the same team to be passionate about the same thing. If everyone is passionate about different things, then that’s no team. If all the team has the same passion except one person, then that one person is in the wrong place. If you, as the team leader, are constantly struggling to get people to do their part, then you are in the wrong place.
On any sports team, every player is passionate about the game. Also, every player wants to be the star player. Every player is passionate about his own success. Sure, the coach has to be passionate too if he wants the players to listen to him, but each player will put his own passion before the coach’s passion. If the coach sees a player with no passion, that player is booted off the team.
Here is a video of a machine shop owner. He is a visionary leader, and in this short video he describes himself as such. Listen to his words. Everything he says is very typical of the visionary leader, and it’s quite cringe worthy (in my opinion).
I’m sure his company really does nice work. And of course, it’s his company and he can run it however he wants. Who do I think I am to criticize? Well, I just can’t help myself.
Notice how it’s primarily about him and his vision, not the work. He’s right to demand excellence from his employees, of course, but he is demanding much more than that. He wants his workers to be loyal to him personally, to such a degree that it goes beyond the shop setting. I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy has regular barbecues at his house for his employees where, while they eat the best hamburgers made from scratch, they are subjected to vision preaching. I would be equally unsurprised to learn that he fired some excellent machinists because they didn’t buy into his vision, while keeping on some less talented guys because they did. The kind of guys that would truly want to work for this company long term are probably equally annoying vision preachers.
A master is not interested in creating a cult (when you hear the word “culture” you’ve entered cult territory). The master cares about excellence just as much as the owner in the video, but he creates that excellence by hiring workers who are already passionate about the work itself. He will allow the individuals he hires to be individuals. Everyone is different and has unique personalities and styles. While the visionary wants to reproduce himself over and over, the master wants his people to be who they are regardless of who he is. The master will use the different individual strengths of his people, while the visionary will cut off anyone whose strengths don’t line up with his vision.
You’re thinking of learning to play the piano, but want to be more inspired to do so. Therefore, do you mostly spend your time listening to someone speaking inspiring rhetoric to convince you to learn piano? Or, do you spend your time listening to a master pianist playing the great Beethoven sonatas?
In my previous Visionary vs. Master articles, I mentioned that one ought to be inspired by the work being done, rather than by the visionary’s rhetoric. I want to explain that in more detail here.
If you are not inspired by the work itself, you are probably pursuing the wrong kind of work. For the visionary, the work is always secondary to the vision. In fact, for the visionary, the work is the vision–declaring and promoting it. Visionaries are inspired by that work. The vision is an end in itself. Therefore, when the visionary hears his followers repeat the vision and promote it, he feels his work is done. If people do not grab hold of the vision, the visionary leader can only get frustrated and repeat his message with vexation.
For the master, it is the work that must inspire. The master will show you what is possible when and if you also master the work. If he sees you are not inspired by the work, he will not waste much time trying to convince you through enlivening or emotional speeches. What he might do is turn up the pressure which will either push you out or wake you up. The master is not upset if the work is not for you. He knows there is something else for you out there, and the sooner you discover that, the better.
We often use sports analogies to talk about teams and teamwork. The sport which best describes the best kind of team is baseball. All members of the baseball team are working together towards the same goal, while at the same time, all members of the team are very much working as individuals.
Unlike other sports where a ball, or puck, is being passed from one team member to another, advancing toward a fixed goal, base ball involves one individual hitting the ball out into an unlimited space. How the hitter performs affects everyone else, but the hitter hits alone. It is the same with the players out in the field. Each individual is responsible for his or her own space.
The best kind of team to work with in any setting is one where each member acts as an individual doing his or her own unique task to further the whole team.