Gama Newsletter
January/February 2014
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Leading Leaders

By Rob Popazzi, CLU, CHS
President, GAMA Canada

Hello all, and welcome to 2014. In this issue I wanted to share some thoughts on leading leaders. As we set our sights on another successful year, what are some of your plans for developing the leaders on your teams (or adding new ones)? If you are in a second-line leadership role, don’t stop reading now. I promise there will be as many ideas for you as there will be for those formally tasked with developing their leadership teams.

There have been many great books published on the topic of leadership development and I would encourage you to pick up one of them. Authors such as John Maxwell (who, by the way, is a main platform speaker at this year’s LAMP in Nashville. Come check him out!), Jim Collins, Barry Kouzes and Jim Posner, Susan Scott, Ken Blanchard, Coach John Wooden ... the list goes on.

One of the simplest models for leading leaders I’ve come across is from the author Jeswald Salacuse, who in his book, aptly titled “Leading Leaders – How to manage smart, talented, rich and powerful people,” identifies the following seven daily tasks of a leader:

  1. Direction – Negotiating the vision
  2. Integration – Making stars a team
  3. Mediation – Settling leadership conflicts
  4. Education – Teaching the educated
  5. Motivation – Moving other leaders
  6. Representation – Leading outside the organization
  7. Trust Creation – Capitalizing your leadership
When you look at the list, you probably think, as I did, "Well, those don't sound earth-shattering." The beauty is that successful developers of talent, the best of the best, execute on each of these tasks brilliantly, every day. Let's dive into one of these tasks today. I will explore additional ones in future newsletters.

Now you may be thinking, "I'm good with the vision piece so I can close this and dive into my next e-mail." Not so fast. Today I'd like to explore how we make a team out of a group of individual stars. These can be individual producers who are informal leaders in your organization or your own leadership team members. I feel that the concepts apply equally to both cohorts.

Integration happens when members come to feel they are part of something. You often hear players from winning teams talk about being part of something special, or that they didn't even have to talk to know what another person was thinking. Such conditions rarely occur without great leadership. They are created by a leader or team of leaders that build a community with common interests, goals, shared values and objectives. The leadership has established, maintained and is always working to strengthen the environment where the other leaders can excel. How can you be better as a leader making stars into a team? Chances are you're already doing this. If not, why not start? If so, is it one of your daily habits, or do you do it only when you can find the time?

Create meaningful activity for your people

Make the common interest of your org one that appeals to the high performer’s sense of purpose and connects with their interests. If you have a leader on your team that loves recognition, get them to help you build out more robust and exciting recognition programs. If you have a leader that is passionate about mentoring, engage them in a session to develop your mentor population.

Make history with them

A common history is a key integrator. One of your roles is to be the organizational historian. You can help your leaders understand and appreciate the history, the challenges faced and met, the obstacles overcome, and the debt that the present owes to the past. Pride in history can be a very powerful integrator for the stars on your team. Any team has history, even if it is short. It’s your responsibility to mine through the data and find the right information for your organization.

Bridge the cultural divide

Know the differences on your team and where the gaps might be. The task then for the leader is to build the bridge. One of the simplest ways that I have observed is the very informal idea of the pot-luck lunch. If executed well, it can bring people together in a way that no formal meeting with sensitivity training as the agenda item ever can. Engage people early. Make a big deal of it and do it once or twice a year. I have seen offices with individuals from over twenty different ethnic backgrounds have the most wonderful times sharing with each other. Another easy way is to ensure you have strong mentors available to help people new to your organization understand the unique cultural environment your office may have compared to their previous workplace.

Become a communications engineer

Understand the needed processes of communication within your org and develop a strategy to accomplish them. Without effective communication you may lead a group of stars, but never a team. Focus on your specific communications, memos, speeches, presentations, and how you deliver your desired message. You need to also think about other tools like internal newsletters, emails, events and so on. One of the great practices I have observed is the annual publication of all formal meetings for the upcoming year. It requires some planning but it sends a strong message about your culture, what you value, and how you run your business.

Isolate or convert "spoilers"

We’ve all worked with them, and sometimes we have been spoilers ourselves. Examples include the star with competing interests to your team and the individual that disagrees with the direction in which you are taking the team. A leader needs to understand the spoiler’s interests. By really knowing them, you can set out to negotiate how to help him or her achieve those interests within the framework of your goals and plans. Getting a few stars onboard in advance can make all the difference, especially if you are leading significant change in the organization. If you can’t convert them, then you need to find ways to minimize their impact by isolating them. It sounds harsh, but it can be as subtle as making sure they aren’t given a platform to publicly undo your work or speak negatively about the company. It can also be as clear and direct as asking them to work in another location or, in a worst case scenario, part ways.

Adopt a unite-and-lead style of management (versus divide-and-conquer)

Words and deeds must show that you put the organization above your own success. Elite followers do not want a leader hunkered down in the corner office or towering above them. They want you walking the halls, working with them, connecting with them, and understanding (or at least trying to understand) them. They want you to execute on all of the integration points we’ve mentioned above. Your proven ability to bring people together and integrate stars into a team will serve you extremely well in any role you might take on.

There’s a lot to each of the seven daily tasks of a leader. We’ll tackle the other ones in future newsletters. If you’d like to connect with me for more information or other interesting leadership reads, please email me at or connect with me through LinkedIn.

All the best in 2014 and beyond.


Future LAMP Dates:
March 16-19, 2014 | Opryland, Nashville
March 15-18, 2015 | Marriott World Center, Orlando
March 13-16, 2016 | Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas

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