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Is Leadership About Creating a Harmonious Team?


Oke Eleazu blog pic

By Oke Eleazu


Last week I was lucky enough to be speaking at Oracle’s Modern Customer Experience Conference. It was an excellent event and the keynote on the morning of the second day was Sir Dave Brailsford, see ubiquitous selfie above! For anyone remotely interested in leadership, listening to someone who has achieved what he has, both transforming British cycling to be the best in the world and winning the Tour de France 3 times with Team Sky, is awe inspiring. When someone like that speaks, you have to listen. As usual he talked about some amazing stuff, including the popular topics of marginal gains and ‘Chimp’ management…If you haven’t read Steve Peter’s book, “the Chimp Paradox, then do, it’s a lifechanger!

However, it was something totally different that caught my attention. Sir Dave talked about the concept of ‘Team Harmony’ vs ‘Goal Harmony’. The essence of his point is that, as a leader, he is more focused on creating a team where everyone is focused on the same goal and understands their role in achieving it, than he is creating a team where everyone gets on. He used the example of Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, who famously fell out during stage 11 of the 2012 Tour de France, but were still able to deliver the win for Team Sky, because everyone understood the overall objective, to win, and the roles that they needed to play…whether they liked it or not. This clarity allowed them to overcome any personal animosity and disharmony. Team Harmony is great if you can get it, but Goal Harmony should come first.

I’m inclined to agree with Sir Dave! When I talk about the leadership required to achieve great service for customers I talk about Inspiration. This is the capability to get everyone in the team to buy into the overall objective, then accept and deliver their role in the team in order to achieve that objective. Once this has been established, the leader should be able to communicate progress with passion. I’d always assumed that, as a leader, you would need everyone to get on too…but Sir Dave has challenged my thinking on that. It’s clearly important to establish effective relationships in the team, both between the leader and the team and peer to peer, but perhaps the emotion involved needn’t be harmony, but more importantly, respect. Ultimately, a team is made up of a group of individuals with different needs, emotions, ambitions and expectations. These will not always gel perfectly, however, if they have the right skills and capabilities to carry out their role, understand what the whole team are trying to achieve, and their part in it and respect others in the team, they can still be winners.

There may be no ‘I’ in team, but if you look closely enough there is a ‘ME”…perhaps the role of the leader is to focus all the ‘ME’s on the goal and smooth any bumps along the way!