I have put more thought into this post than what I usually do. Still, I am sure that should it go viral, which I very much doubt it will, it will cause more discussion than any of my previous posts collectively. Leadership is a difficult thing.
To discuss this without having at least a PhD in a related area may be to open up for trouble. I am an essay shy of a Master in Educational Management and I have held leadership roles for the last 30 years. In no way does that make me an expert but it means I have spent quite a lot of time thinking about leadership.
What sent me into thinking mode this time was an article I read over the holidays. James Hatch is a retired serviceman of the US Navy who was wounded in combat in 2009, on a mission to rescue an American hostage. At 52, James is a freshman at Yale University.
James Hatch writes about his Navy Seal service that;
– ”Every single day I went to work with much better humans than myself. I was brought to a higher level of existence because the standards were high and one needed to earn their slot, their membership in the unit.”
In two sentences Hatch summarises what has been a basic principle of most successful teams over many years. The high performing group is always superior to the sum of the individuals and their abilities within it. However, every now and then, stories of how these ”high standards” are set and maintained leak and when the NHL had its #metoo moment just before Christmas it was a disgraceful story about a leadership, thought to be much outdated in this day and age, full of bullying, racism and abuse. All there to try and differentiate between those that can manage to rise to the standards (of the coach) and those that cannot. My guess is that should James Hatch tell us what his experience of leadership in the navy was like, some similar stories would come out. In fact, if I and many of my friends were to talk about our experience of the military (which at the time was compulsory for young men in Sweden), it would not be that pretty when it comes to leadership. Having said that, hockey players would still contribute a lot of their and their team’s performance to their coach. I, and my friends, would say that the superior in charge of our group in the military made us perform outside of what we thought we were capable of. What effect that had long term is however a bit more unclear.
That leadership in sport, where extraordinary physical and psychological performances are highly required, is not always as humane and sound as we would hope came through loud and clear in the British department for culture and sport Duty of care review in sport, in 2017. Similar patterns and problems have been seen in other high performance programmes across the globe.
As I continue to read the article by Hatch my mind goes spinning when he describes the meeting between his own often low self esteem with the, by others, so called snowflakes of the university. The snowflake analogy insinuating these young people would view themselves as unique, just as every snowflake. Nothing could be more wrong Hatch says. These youngsters are smart, hard working, many of them first generation Americans and when it comes to discussing difficult subjects they are not uncomfortable, as he is.
As I read this I am confident that the generation z that is now storming into the workplace and in many aspects have already taken over sports, demands a different leadership. One where being wrong is not the end of the day, but where not giving it a go is unimaginable. The performance of the group will continue to be greater than the sum of the individuals, but only of we make disagreement our best friend. No one person will ever be able to have all the future answers. And leadership is to be smarter than everybody else. Collectively.