Posted by: johnocunningham | March 13, 2012

How Virtuoso Leaders Direct and Communicate

Readers of this blog know that I am always following and reporting on research developments regarding how great teams and great leaders operate.

The latest resource I have discovered on this subject is the book entitled, “Virtuoso Teams: The Extraordinary Story of Extraordinary Teams,” co-authored by Professors Andy Boynton (from B.C.) and Bill Fischer.

They did a great job of delving into the inner workings of great teams of the past century to discern what made them tick, including, to name a handful of examples:

  • The Thomas Edison industrial innovation team;
  • The Sid Caesar comedy team;
  • The Manhattan Project atomic development team;
  • The Miles Davis jazz ensembles; and
  • The NASA lunar exploration team.

Among other things, the authors discovered that virtuoso team leaders set goals and communicate differently from ordinary leaders in several ways:

1. Virtuoso leaders are obsessed with new ideas and are always “on the prowl” for the next big thing; whereas ordinary leaders focus on “real work” and traditional doctrines with no conscious sense of the origin or even existence of revolutionary ideas.

2. Virtuoso leaders develop vivid and compelling visions of what a project can be, and they communicate those visions, acting as magnets for game-changing ideas borne of the ambitions of others; whereas ordinary leaders accept projects as given, and assemble teams to reach the immediate goals and no others.

3. Virtuoso leaders share what they read and discover with colleagues, creating an environment where people are passionate about learning; whereas ordinary team leaders are too focused on the “job at hand” to think about or devote energy to discussions of ethereal ideas.

4. Virtuoso leaders take active and even passionate interest in the work of others, playing a central role in bringing the work of others together through communication; whereas ordinary leaders focus narrowly on their own work and ideas, showing little or no interest in the ideas of others.

5. Virtuoso leaders also are not afraid of confrontational communication within the group, as long as it is focused on how to improve, and in fact, they even encourage the clash of ideas; whereas ordinary leaders insist on superficial harmony and will sacrifice disruptive ideas in order to preserve “order.”

Virtuoso team leaders drive the culture, the vision and the energy of their teams, in part by inspiring them to stretch for ambitious, less mundane goals. They know they are the conduits, and not the sole sources for ideas, and they know how to get the best out of their teams by empowering all of the individuals to speak up and participate, maximizing the force of the team.


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