Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When the Leader Isn't the Star

I read an excellent article this past weekend about the late Angelo Dundee. I'll be honest, I had never heard the name before. But when I read the intro caption on SI.com, "Angelo Dundee's influence and motivation was the perfect buffer to Muhammad Ali's flamboyant demeanor, writes Richard Hoffer, and without it, Ali might not have been the "greatest." I had to read it. You should read it here too, it's a great piece.

The reason it caught my attention is because, as a leader, I've always been keenly interested in the lives of mentors to great people. Ali certainly has a permanent place as a great person. So what was it like to manage a person like that? What was it like to corral the endless motivation, work ethic, and talent?

Most of us will never be on quite that stage. That doesn't mean that we don't, from time to time, manage someone who does their job better than we could. That's a unique thing about managing that I feel we often miss the boat on - managing is about understanding the process, motivating, and tracking progress.

Managers of great performers excel at this. They take their deep understanding of the process and relay that to an individual with the talents and tools to complete it. They push their students, challenge them, sharpen them. They take raw talent and polish it to a shining diamond.

What things can we do in our everyday management of our top performers to help them reign in their talent and focus their strengths on the task at hand? How can we motivate them to be the best they can be at every turn? How can we elevate them to being all time greats?

Good thoughts for the week ahead.