Triple Crown Leadership

Triple Crown Leadership

10 Reasons Why Great Leadership is a Group Performance

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Leadership Speakers and Authors, Bob and Greg Vanourek, use an image of triumphant hikers on a mountain top to illustrate the importance of team work in leadership.

Photo: iStock

“We have a wrong-headed notion of what constitutes a leader, driven by an obsession with leaders at the top.”

 Bill George, Harvard professor, former CEO, Medtronic

We have a crisis in leadership today with seemingly continuous scandals rocking business, government, religious organizations, non-profits, sports, and more.

The latest results from the much respected Edelman Trust Barometer show only 18% of the knowledgeable people surveyed believe business leaders, and only 13% of government leaders, will tell you the truth. Shocking.

We can blame the crisis on human nature, greed, the lust for power, ego, or the phases of the moon. All have some skin in the game (except perhaps the phases of the moon). But there’s another driving factor as well: a flawed leadership model.

Most people think about leadership from the top down, conflating leadership with authority. The quest for a heroic leader to save our organizations is a false search destined to disappoint. Yet, we continue to await such saviors. We focus too much on the skills of the people at the top and their leadership style, whether it be directive, empowering, authentic, transformational, or whatever.

Great leadership, triple crown leadership, works up, down, and sideways. It is a group performance, enlisting anyone and everyone to lead at certain times, regardless of the organizational hierarchy. Sometimes the CEO leads; sometimes the CEO bites his or her tongue to let others lead, letting them gain invaluable leadership experience.

We heard this concept of “leadership as a group performance” over and over again in our research:


“If you have to lead everything, you’re just aggrandizing yourself. The real world needs empowered project teams, individual leaders, all kinds of folks.”

Bob Hatcher, CEO, MidCountry Financial Corp.


“The old organizational model where a few people decide things, and then ‘manage’ everyone else, just can’t function in today’s environment…. A team is characterized by the fact that every single person takes the initiative and is a ‘changemaker.’”

Bill Drayton, CEO, Ashoka


“Leadership at Neusoft is not single people, not the CEO, COO, or the CFO. We need all the leaders from the bottom up.”

Liu Jiren, CEO, Neusoft (China’s largest IT services company)


“The top leader’s job is to get others to lead.”

Bill George


But why is great leadership a group performance? We can think of ten reasons (hopefully, you can add more). Great leadership is a group performance because it:

  1. Retains good people because they are engaged and challenged.
  2. Encourages out-of-the-box solutions to emerge.
  3. Reveals new ways to implement solutions.
  4. Keeps the leader’s ego in check.
  5. Develops successors.
  6. Allows you time to think more strategically.
  7. Allows you time for sanctuary.
  8. Allows you to work fewer hours.
  9. Allows you to get more brainpower on the problems.
  10.  Allows you have more balance in your life.

Core Concept:  Great leadership is a group performance.

Practical Applications:

A Short Quiz:

  1. Are you “doing it all” with all the challenges on your desk?
  2. Are your people waiting for you to give them direction?
  3. Do you lack a good successor?
  4. Do you lack innovation to help solve your problems?
  5. Do you think of yourself as absolutely indispensable?

Quiz Answers:

If you answered “yes” to two or more of the above, revise your view to see leadership as a group performance.

Bob and Gregg Vanourek, father and son, are co-authors of and speakers on Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, winner of the 2013 International Book Awards (Business: General). Twitter: @TripleCrownLead, @BobVanourek, @GVanourek

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