By Dean Brenner
It is always a good idea to evaluate your sailing organization’s leadership structure this time of year. Dean Brenner, Chairman of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program, provides US Sailing with a list of tips that will help you make the right decisions and do what is best for your sailing organization and your members. Brenner is the Founder of the Latimer Group, an executive coaching firm that teaches persuasive speaking and writing skills.
Leadership is a topic that almost everyone has an opinion on, and most people’s opinions focus on what others did poorly or could have done better. Being the leader is never easy because almost everyone in the room thinks they can do it better than you can.
But under the right circumstances and with the proper approach and attitude, leadership can be a highly satisfying experience. Here are a few ideas and attitudes that will help you enjoy your team as a leader:
1. Every team situation is different. Try to avoid the trap of saying “here’s how I’ve always done it, and here’s how I’m going to keep doing it.” Every person is the unique, and therefore, by definition, every team situation is unique. In the 21st century, good leadership requires that we take a flexible approach to how we will handle situations.
2. The 21st century has changed the way we must lead. With the dramatic rise in access to web-based information, and the non-stop access to each other through social media, the typical person is more opinionated than ever before, and also thinks that the world needs to hear their opinion. This reality isn’t going away any time soon. So, knowing that you will be leading a better informed and more opinionated group of people should have an impact on your leadership style. Be prepared to do more listening, and be prepared to withstand the barrage of opinion that will inevitably come your way.
3. Be inclusive. Except in times of crisis, it pays a nice dividend to include people in your process and your decision-making. The four most empowering words you can speak within your team are “what do you think?”
4. Make sure your words match your inclusiveness. This one is simple. Make sure to speak in the first person plural “we” and try to avoid the first person singular “I”. Leaders who constantly speak in the “I” are perceived to be all about themselves, and not about the team.
5. Build ownership. To quote the great investor Warren Buffett, “no one washes a rental car.” Nothing motivates people like true, honest-to-god ownership. So, the goal as the leader is to try to find ways to make your team feel connected to the outcome, and to make them care enough to “own” it. Once they connect and own the effort, you’ll get a far better output.
Leadership is hard, but with the proper attitude, it can be a life-altering experience.