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How President Obama Would Build a Team.

Dec 18

One of my favorite writers is Bill Simmons of Grantland fame.  Recently, Bill got the chance to interview President Obama for GQ Magazine. Bill is traditionally a sports writer, huge NBA fan, but also does a ton of pop culture pieces as well. So, why not the President!?

The article is great. A good read for sure. One thing I took out of it was how President Obama explains how he builds a team around him. It came when Bill asked him who he would take a call from of he was out to dinner with his wife, Michelle. A tricky situation for all husbands! My wife is the most important person in my life, BUT sometimes you have to take that call!

From the GQ article:

“Malia and Sasha. [laughs] And maybe my mother-in-law. My national security adviser, Susan Rice, and Denis McDonough, my chief of staff. Those are the only people whose call I would take during a date night with Michelle. But the entire White House is full of people who have enormous responsibilities. You can’t do this by yourself. The principle of team building in the White House is really no different than the principle of team building anywhere, on a sports team or a well-run business. Do they put team ahead of themselves? Do you make sure all the pieces fit together? Because just having the best athletes, if they’re knocking heads and nobody’s doing rebounding and everybody wants the ball, it isn’t always going to work.”

It’s the essence of leadership, right?

Surround yourself with great talent that is willing to work as a team for the greater good of the whole organization. Sounds so easy, but it’s so freaking hard to get right!

We tend to overly believe in just getting the best talent, but too often the team with the best talent fails.  Too many organizations do not put enough time into the concept of the pieces fitting together, but that is the secret sauce of great leaders.  The talent doesn’t have to be the best. Usually, the space between the best and very good is so small you wouldn’t be able to tell anyway!

The one thing you must get right is whether or not the talent you have, fits together and works together. The final step, once they all fit together and work together is getting them to works together towards that overarching organizational goal. Another tough thing to consistently make happen. Some teams love working together, but can’t complete the task of reaching the organizational goal.

President Obama gets it. It’s probably the reason he got elected for two terms. Any leadership position has very little to do with what you know, and everything to do with the team you are able to put around you. That team will define your leadership success.

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