When the New England Patriots went to the Super Bowl in 2002, they did something that no other team has done before: Before the game, when every other team introduces its starters individually, New England came out as a team.
"No introductions. No names. No stars. Just 53 teammates coming onto the field as a single unit," wrote Sean Gormley, a columnist with Georgetown University's newspaper, The Hoya. "The significance of that entrance said more about this Patriots team than any analyst ever could, the ultimate sign of team before individual in an era of me-first go-where-the-money-is professional sports."
I was at the Super Bowl that year, and when I heard the Patriots were going to be introduced as a team, I decided right then and there that I was going to root for them that day. Yes, I'm a fickle fan, but I liked the idea of them being introduced together, with nobody standing out. The message the players sent was clear: "We're a team--we win together, we lose together." (As it turned out, they won together, eking out a 20-17 victory over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams.)
The Patriots didn't decide to enter the field as a group because they lacked star players who deserved individual recognition. They did so because those top players possess a quality common to effective leaders in every arena--they know how to check their egos at the door.
Small egos are especially critical in today's ever-changing business world. Larry Bossidy, chairman of Honeywell International and co-author of the best-selling book, Execution, put it this way: "There used to be days when the people at the top 'knew everything.' Today, being a CEO is a humbling job. And the more you learn, the more you recognize every reason that you have to be humble because the competitive environment is so fierce and there's so much more to do out there all the time."
Of course, when you're the ultimate boss, it's tempting to take credit for the successes of your organization. This tendency is magnified by the increasingly star-struck media culture in which we live. When a leader is positive, successful and engaging, it's only human nature for employees to lionize him or her.
But the best leaders refuse to let such adulation--however justified--go to their heads. Instead of taking the glory for their organization's accomplishments, they are much more likely to attribute their success to hard work, good timing, a healthy dose of luck or the efforts of family members and colleagues. Because these leaders are not driven by their egos, they are quick to turn the spotlight away from themselves and on to the people who actually make their organizations tick on a daily basis. As a result, when a great leader's work is done, the people say, "We did it ourselves."
Mark Twain once remarked, "It's amazing what can be accomplished if the leader doesn't care who gets the credit." It was true for the New England Patriots, and it also can be true for your organization--as long as you're willing to check your ego at the door.
This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free monthly e-newsletter 'Leadership Wired' available at http://www.MaximumImpact.com.
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