Great leadership teams can make a huge difference in how your organization succeeds. Why do so many great leaders have partners they can trust? I saw The Lone Ranger this holiday weekend and it got me thinking, do leaders need great partners to succeed? Who is your Tonto? I can think of many great leaders who would not be the same without the impact and insights of their fellow leaders.
Several of these great pairs include people like Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, Michel Eisner and Frank Wells, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard and, finally, last but not least, the Lone Ranger and Tonto. So what makes these great partnerships works so well?
What should you look for in your sidekick? I came up with several ideas that might help you achieve more and build the business of your dreams. I understand that ever dynamic duo is different but there are several qualities they all share. So let’s get started. By the way if you haven’t seen the new Lone Ranger movie yet you should take time to go see it. It will give you a new found respect for developing great leadership partnerships. If you’re like me, you will see way too much of your own leadership style in the movie, kemosabe.
I’d like to share what I’ve learned about playing Tonto to many of my best coaching clients. Let’s see if I can provide the silver bullet that you need to build an extraordinary partnership.
The first quality of a good partner is to challenge your beliefs. Leaders are leaders because they have strongly held beliefs. So why do you need a person who reminds you that you might be wrong about some of the things you believe? In a constantly changing world, strong leaders understand they can’t know everything about every given situation. Your Tonto should be able to point out things you don’t know in a way that allows you to come to the best decision for the organization. They can do it with humor, sometimes with a story, and sometimes with great questions. I find all great leaders are serious, but don’t take themselves seriously.
The second quality of a good partner is to get you to take action. Sometimes they inspire you and, other times, provide a swift kick in the pants, but they let you know when it’s time to move. I’ve seen several of my clients moved to action by a partner who gets them going. And I’ve gotten a number of my coaching clients to move. I know that Charlie Munger has been known to help Warren come to a decision faster because of the way he asks questions and draws Warren into making a decision. In his partnering role, he provides Warren Buffett with a more complete view of the decision than anyone else can. Both men understand that a non-decision is a decision just the same, and in many cases, that’s the best decision at the time. They are very capable of making big decisions faster than any other business duo of the last 100 years.
The third quality a good partner is to tell you things you don’t want to hear. Melinda Gates plays this role for Bill. Anyone who has ever worked around Bill Gates picks up on his intense focus and his ability to break things down to their most simple elements. It doesn’t matter if its technology or nonprofit work. It doesn’t mean that he’s always right and that he completely understands the intangibles of any given situation. Sometimes his emotions overrule his logic. Melinda helps remove some of the intensity around what he’s focusing on while also providing feedback that others might shy away from giving. She knows how to get through to her husband when he is at his most intense. I find couples that work so closely develop an intuitive understanding of what needs to be said and then saying it. To be a contrarian here, I believe in many couples’ partnerships, this ability to state the hard truths helps both partners feel more alive. These couples understand how their partners’ minds and hearts work and what blind spots might be present at the time of the discussions.
The fourth quality of a great partner is to support you in your dreams. It not always easy to connect the dots when you’re looking in from the outside but a great partner provides support for your dreams. Great partners understand sometimes it takes a silver bullet to achieve one’s dreams and they help provide it to their partners by the mine full. Great partners understand the power in mission, vision, and values for a growing organization. They don’t mind listening and helping bring it to reality. When I work with many privately held businesses, the chief cheerleader in the family is the spouse, who continues believing long after everyone one else has given up. As new women leaders continue emerging, I see more of their spouses playing this role in the family business.
So how do you find the right partner? That’s a whole different discussion that we don’t have time for here today. I’ll tell you what I’ve learned from my best clients and friends. When you find it, you’ll know it. Just be aware of the gift you are being given. Great partners can take your life and business from good to great.
If you’re wondering how you might apply this to build stronger business alliances you might enjoy How Entrepreneurs Can Make Their Key Partnerships Successful
See you back here next week.