Let’s go way, way back in time for a moment. Think about how a ship in the 18th century operated. Both the captain and the crew had one common goal: smooth sailing! The crew relied on the captain to operate skillfully and make good decisions, and the captain relied on the crew to fulfill their roles. Each member on the ship was a leader who relied on the other leaders to perform their roles for the good of everyone.
So, you can see that the crew and the captain had an interdependent relationship with one another, what we call in corporate America a “shared vision.” Today, with all our technology, we have a false sense of independence. Although we don’t need one another for survival, we still could all use a little smooth sailing in our lives by acknowledging our interdependence.
Modern Day Crew
We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. —Albert Einstein
A crew is different from a team or employees and, of course, can be different from your family of origin. A crew is made up of people who are 99.99% committed to your success. You can be vulnerable with your crew because they have no hidden agenda and they will point you to forward-focused proactive action. They are objective and have no other interest other than in your success. They know there is enough for everyone and will do whatever is necessary to ensure your success.
You can have a crew in the form of coaches, mentors, partners and other business leaders. I learned that by being part of and leading mastermind groups, I could multiply my time and effectiveness by working with a crew, especially those who have complementary skills. You also need to be around people you can trust, so you can gain the fortitude to change course if things aren’t going the way you like.
For example, I am a visionary (my leadership superpower); I love to create new things and I need someone to keep my feet on the ground. With the number of projects I take on, I need a member of my crew to remind me of my cash flow and other practical and administrative requirements. I call that person a logical leader. It doesn’t mean that visionaries aren’t logical. It just means that visionaries need someone who can see how the vision can be accomplished. In fact, learning to delegate and trust others is key to becoming a successful business leader regardless of your superpower.
Remember that as the captain of your own ship, you must make a conscious choice to positively impact others in what you are trying to achieve, and it all starts with knowing your crew. Everyone has a Leader Within (a captain). We are born with that capacity, and the more we listen to that part of ourselves, the more effective we are as leaders. If we don’t listen to this part of ourselves, we get resentful or pissed off, or we go numb. Don’t let that happen to you!
Having a crew not only provides a trusted expert advisory board, it also provides tremendous value by sharing what other leaders are doing right in their businesses. I can’t imagine my life without strong people around me raising the bar. I am sure my life would be okay, but it wouldn’t be great. I know the power of mastermind groups and leadership programs. I feel so blessed to be able to lead them. Here’s the bottom line: you know people are part of your crew when they respond in the following ways:
- “I know what you want, Captain, and I will do my part to help you get there.”
- “1 + 1 = chicken” (meaning, when we get together and collaborate effectively, positive results beyond our wildest dreams will appear)
- Use “we-speak,” coming from the “How will we...” perspective. This often means being brave enough to:
- Talk about the elephant in the room in a kind way, and
- Practice “go-set-ready” (starting as soon as possible — likely in an awkward fashion and, of course, being okay with failing, because that means we learned).
Successful leaders learn to share their achievement of attaining their dream by helping others attain theirs. Your crew will help keep you focused on the fact that your business is not all about you and your needs. Your crew will understand your vision and goals and help keep you focused on your vision, for both yourself and others. They know, as do all students of business, that happy employees and happy clients will mean a happy you.
We have seen great results in our leadership program using the book Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead by Henry and Karen Kimsey-House. We often point our clients to this book when we ask them to do the following exercise. By visually identifying your current crew members, this exercise will reveal where other crew members are needed to complement your leadership strengths (or what we call leadership superpowers).
Take a moment now and answer the following questions. Once you are done, write the names of your crew members on the appropriate position on your ship!
- Who in your life will tell you about what you already know but don’t want to admit needs to change?
- Who is your captain? Not your boss, not your client, not your life partner, and not your mama!
- What do you call that part of yourself that leads you from within toward the fulfillment of your life purpose (Leader Within)?
- Who in your life provides you a big-picture view of what is happening (Leader in the Field)?
- Who in your life possesses the professional tools necessary to move you forward? Or who do you admire and want to be more like, e.g., a mentor (Leader in Front)?
- Who in your life are you so close to in thought that you can’t remember who said what? Who in your life serves the same customers or has the same interests you do but in a different way (Leader Beside)?
- Who in your life works as an emotionally supportive person, e.g., a coach (Leader Behind), offering you thought-provoking questions?