“…There is no such thing as the perfect leader… In any great leadership team you find at least four personalities, and you never find all four in a single person… You need a strategist or visionary, who sets the goals for where the organization needs to go… You have to have the classic manager – somebody who takes care of the organization, making sure that everybody knows what they need to do, that tasks are broken up into manageable action… You need a champion for the customer to translate your product into something that customers are going to pay for, who empathizes with and understands how customers will see it. … Lastly, you need the enforcer, who says “We’ve stared at this issue enough. We’re going to make a decision and deal with whatever conflict we have. … You very rarely find more than two of those personalities in one person.”
– Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware interviewed in the NY Times, Sun. 10/03/10 (Copied From Under The Buzz)
I received this quote in an article sent by one of our investors. It really resonated with me for two reasons. First, it articulates four core strengths that are needed to lead organizations. I think the distinctions are insightful and are critical functions of leadership. Second, it makes explicit mention that these are never found in one person. This is the point I would like to dwell on.
Too often we want our leaders to be perfect — to be the sum of all the wisdom captured about leadership. This is not only unrealistic, it leads to mediocrity. A leader without clear strengths and weaknesses tends to just be average in everything. We certainly don’t need any more mediocre leaders. We need leaders that have edges because it enables them to have incredible strengths, even if it reveals blinds spots.
Because of this we must look to leadership as coming from a core team and not from one person; a team whose strengths can complement one another. This requires that the team have a shared vision and shared goals. They rely on the strengths of one another to lead the company in the direction they should go.
This does not mean that there is no hierarchy of authority; there needs to be one person who bears the responsibility of making the final decision. It does mean, however, that they need to surround themselves with others whose strengths differ from their own. Certainly not an easy thing to do, but the only way to succeed.
After all, leadership is not about the one but the many.