Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. - Proverbs 11:14 -
There is no easy way to grow a small business from the ground up. This is something that I can say with confidence: I have been there, and I have done that. NBA was not an organization that just manifested overnight. In fact, it took many years and a lot of hard work to reach the level where we are today.
And through those years and that work, there is something incredibly important that I learned: there is great value, and great wisdom, in the people you keep at your side.
When I was young, I did everything myself. I wore all the hats of a small business owner, and I didn’t bring a lot of people into my close space. I trusted few people. I was impatient. And I was blinded by my own ambition and drive to build a successful company…and it backfired. I made a lot of mistakes. I isolated myself.
I learned that in in business, there is safety in the counsel of many. When we grow as individuals and as professionals, it’s important to build a network of support around us. And within that network of support, we need to have people who are not afraid of voicing their opinions and providing us feedback. As I learned in my experiences, my own passion put blinders on my ability to see how narrowly I was thinking. But as I opened up myself to feedback, I started to see how some of my business decisions were impacting potential growth, and how some of my personal decisions were impacting my own happiness.
“Where no counsel is, the people fall.” How often do we see “lone rangers”—people who set out to accomplish a mission, but do so without relying on the feedback and input of others? I know tons of lone ranges. But I don’t know tons of successful lone rangers. Because at the end of the day, a lone ranger is only one mind. And no matter how many great ideas one mind has, it cannot compare to the power of many minds and many great ideas building off of one another. Where there is no feedback, no self-reflection, no parameters for understanding and growth, the people fall.
“But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” There is the saying of safety in numbers. And while this saying is often used to describe physical safety, I believe it applies to emotional and business and mental safety, too. When we have a support system of people who know us and know our goals and our ambition, it’s amazing to see how people want to help you succeed. It’s the vulnerability of opening oneself to feedback that is powerful. The ability to recognize the need for humility in all that we do: to check our egos and grow strong under the counsel of many.
When asked to name great leaders, who comes to mind? Most often we think of individuals who have found success in business ventures: Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk. Activists who broke through barriers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony. Individuals whose lives were about serving others: Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, members of military, and more.
But when we think about leaders in our own lives, who comes to mind? Is it our parents? Our teachers? Our friends? Or if we’re considering our own organizations and positions at work, do we think about our own bosses as good leaders? What about ourselves? Are you a good leader?
Part of the complexity of building a business and leading an organization is understanding how to identify leaders and grow them to their full potential. A leader is not always someone who walks through the doors of your business as a completely formed, well-adjusted leader who is ready to hit the ground running.
At NBA, some of our strongest leaders started as average employees. But these individuals had the qualities of great leaders that eventually pulled them to the top of the organization. Great leaders are not superheroes. Great leaders are individuals who are capable of—and willing to invest in—developing their own skills to serve the greater good.
To me, a great leader has some of the classic trademarks of success: an ability to listen to others, communicate effectively and deliver results. But, they also need to embody two incredibly important characteristics: the ability to delegate, and the ability to embrace competition.
When I am working with some of the best leaders in my company, I notice time and time again that the most effective teams are led by men and women who are able to let go of some control and delegate tasks and assignments to the most-capable team member. It is amazing what can be accomplished and achieved when teams empower individual members to identify their strengths, and then use those strengths to complete a task or project.
Similarly, great leaders are not afraid of those individuals who do have impressive strengths and skills. Too many times, I have witnessed a team fall apart because a manager did not embrace the skills of a team member out of fear of competition—a misguided concern that helping one person achieve success is somehow a direct threat to their own position or capabilities. In fact, the opposite is true. When my attention is drawn to a great leader, it is typically because a team, as a whole, is excelling. The impact of a team doing great things far exceeds the impact of one individual doing great things, and I know that this comes from great leadership.
As the story of Joshua in the Bible reminds us, we must bring the best people to the table. Moses brought Joshua to the table of leadership because he was the individual best suited to carry out the judicial powers and responsibilities. And so should we look to our teams, identify their strengths, and bring the best people to our tables.