In Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's book Brothers in Arms, he tells the story of Lieutenant John Robinson who was assigned to a tank command during World War II. Robinson knew nothing about tanks or tank battle strategy, yet he was in charge of men who were thoroughly trained. There was no time for playing catch-up. Although, they were still just participating in maneuvers (and firing live rounds), the troopers were being closely watched and evaluated for frontline duty.
Robinson's solution was to confess his ignorance to his troops. He relied on their ability to do their job, while he learned the skills they already knew. His men rallied behind him. They pulled their weight and his and did it so well, Robinson was singled out and commended for their excellent teamwork. He confessed his initial ignorance to his superiors and was made morale officer. His troops had done a great job and enjoyed themselves while they showed off their abilities.
In business competition, as in war, we're often called upon to lead when we feel unprepared and ill-equiped. We can work as hard as we can to learn what we need to know, so we can make the right decisions, but still we need to depend on others for help and assistance. Perhaps, we're not completely ignorant (so we don't have to confess it), but we never know all we need to know and most people don't possess every possible skill needed for every project. That's why we belong to teams. Each team member brings their own skills and knowledge to the playing field. Team leadership takes advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of the entire team. Trusting them and allowing them to participate and lead encourages their development and ultimately leads to success.
The strength of a any team can be enhanced by letting the members know how much their own skills are valued. By confessing and sharing weaknesses, we can take advantage of the strengths of others and thereby build a stronger team. This allows us to find team members who can step up to the plate and deliver a home run, when needed. Lt. John “Jackie" Robinson was later a team member of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the first African American to play Major League Baseball.
Author Don Doman: Don is a published author of books for small business, corporate video producer, and owner of Ideas and Training (http://www.ideasandtraining.com ), which provides business training products. Don also owns and Human Resources Radio (http://www.humanresourcesradio.com ), which provides business training programs and previews 24-hours a day.