Compete AND Cooperate

I consider myself a “Student of Leadership”.  I believe in the importance of life-long learning, and I am constantly on the prowl to learn something new about leadership. You never know when you’re going to see or hear something that catches your attention and resonates within you as being absolutely crucial to being a successful leader. When it happens in the classroom, I find myself looking around the room thinking, “Does anyone realize how important what he/she just said is?”

Last week was one of those weeks where I was in five different “instructional” venues, so as I look back on what people said, there were more than a few “teachable moments” for me. Say what you want, but I’ve found that I can learn something from just about anyone, and that goes for the topic of leadership, too!

Last week, the most powerful leadership insight I heard came from a City Manager who was talking about the importance of creating an environment of cooperation between various staff members. He made a profound statement: “The worst thing you can do is get mad and go back to your office and shut the door because we won’t let you stay around if you do that. We can’t have a culture of anger. We have to have a culture of cooperation.”

Remember the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”? Turns out it was more than just a cute idea. In the world of give and take, it’s the way you get things accomplished. As a leader, you have to model the way for how you work with others.

How does your team see you working with your Council or your Board? Do you pout when you don’t get your way? Do you lose your temper? Or do you set the example of what it means to keep working patiently toward your goals? Do you demonstrate what it means to seek win-win for everyone? If your team sees you posturing so that there are always winners and losers, don’t be surprised if a spirit of competition undermines the even more important spirit of cooperation.

Of course, creating a spirit of cooperation doesn’t preclude a culture of healthy debate. I often repeat what one of my friends used to say, “Any good idea can become a better idea if it is subjected to robust dialogue.” You need open discussion and you need to hear each person’s perspective; but even if there are different opinions, and even if people on your team are, in a sense, competing for resources, something trumps competition. It’s cooperation. It’s an understanding that a “culture of anger” is not a recipe for success.

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

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