Of Leaders & Role Players

Yesterday’s post was about what “followers” of a leader (aka employees, partners, etc.) can and should do for their leader and when their leader is not present or able (or gets taken out by a trench-coated frat boy). I mentioned how much our society and economy value leaders and the quality of leadership, but also how important those who are following the leader are. Along those same lines, there are always specific roles that non-leaders must do, and there’s always the desire of the individual to be a leader – no matter what the situation – or to be a player on a winning team.

Let’s use the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls as our example.

Most people, at least those of you who were born and/or paying attention to the greatest basketball player ever to live, will easily remember Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman from that team than went 72-10 through the regular season and then went on to win the NBA Championship. But those three players did not win it by themselves. Jordan was clearly the leader, aka “Superman”. Scottie Pippen, who attended Central Arkansas, an NAIA Div II school, and Dennis “The Worm” Rodman were his sidekicks.

But can you name anyone else on that team? Maybe “Sixth Man of the Year” Tony Kukoc? Three-point specialist Steve Kerr? Former Georgia Tech star John Salley? Anyone? Well, they won a championship that year, too. No, they didn’t get all the headlines, MVP awards, scoring champion awards, coach of the year award, but they got a ring.

Were they the leaders? No, but they played significant roles on the team, and they won an NBA Championship, something most people won’t ever even dream of. More was expected of the three leaders, namely points, rebounds, assists, and defense. But more specific things were expected from the role players.

Each role player knew his role when he started the season, and could therefore focus 100% on that main function. And each won a championship ring. If these role players had not had the role player attitude, but instead desired to be the leader, then the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls season would not be in the record books.

There are leaders and there are followers.   Each has his role, but if either one fails to own and embrace his role, the organization crumbles.

This everyday scenario begs the question, which are you today? And which do you want to be? Could you change roles from one organization to the next, or do you need to stay a leader or stay a role player? When you start or join a startup business, you never know what role(s) you might end up playing. Here are two quotes that may help you forget about your ego and accept a role – leader or follower – at your next great startup.

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”Richard Branson

“Where you have the chance to get on a rocket ship, don’t worry about the seat, just get on and work it out as you go.”Eric Schmidt

You never know: you may end up in a role nobody ever heard of on a championship team. That’s ok. You’ll have won a championship, regardless of your role.

What do you think?