Chris Fussell, a former Navy SEAL who served under Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, has written an excellent book, One Mission – How Leaders Build a Team of Teams. Fussell describes how McChrystal’s Task Force, composed of many separate teams with separate agendas, let go of their tribal, silo-ed thinking and united under one mission to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book holds important lessons for C-Suite executives who want to bust the silos that exist in their organizations that inevitably cause non-productive in-fighting. The author does a great job of defining the role of the leader in rallying his/her workforce to unite under a common mission and objectives.
Fussell writes, “There is a stubborn tendency from the outside to wholly credit the genius or special gifts of an individual figurehead-type leader with an entire institution’s success…Great teams, great culture and great discipline will all be the dominant forces moving forward. Any leader trying to fight these twenty-first century organizations from a lone hilltop will quickly perish in an effort to hold on to norms of the past.” In fact the author believes that, “The heroic-leader myth ignores the truly hard work that makes systems like this flourish. It ignores how our leadership had empowered and interconnected younger teams and leaders; how they pulled diverse voices and perspectives into the conversation; and how they modeled a humility-based leadership archetype for the rest of us to embrace. These were not leaders on a hilltop but servants to the mission.”
Fussell states that “you’re not made a leader; you decide to become one.” Leadership is not about the ‘lone wolf hero’. “Our best leaders, regardless of rank or position, must assume the role of the mentor and guide, rather than seek the hero’s spotlight.” He continues by stating that, “Today’s leaders must and consistently explain to their organizations that no single person is truly the stand-alone hero; rather, team members must collectively strive to listen, learn and share with one another if they hope to navigate the turbulent waters of the twenty-first century. They are the ones who must connect to solve problems. They are the ones who must assume new and uncomfortable levels of empowerment and accountability. As an interconnected team of teams, they are the organization’s secret to overcoming its greatest challenges.”
Furthermore, “An executive leader can build and sustain the means for teams to act upon their own problem sets, shepherd the organization in the right direction and protect its members from outside forces. But ultimately, success and failure will depend on the tactical and operational members of the enterprise – a truly humble leader will watch their capabilities emerge, resist calls to take credit for them and publicly acknowledge that the newfound capacity of the organization’s systems is far greater than anything that one person or team could ever hope to produce.” The belief system of the leader is that, “I can help guide us on the path but only you can win the war. I trust you to do that.”
The book One Mission – How Leaders Build a Team of Teams describes the importance of breaking an organization’s silo mentality and replacing it with a culture that unites workers under one mission – with everyone collaborating to make things happen with common objectives. Fussell describes how to unite an organization’s teams to work together to achieve great things but emphasizes that it’s all about the culture and its people. “It is ultimately the organic interactions of similarly motivated people – individual humans who are willing to discard myopic, unit-centric views on organizational issues and commit to a broader aligning narrative – that makes its practices produce value and unleash a massive competitive advantage.”
In conclusion, Fussel writes that, “Aligning teams, communicating with transparency, decentralizing decision-making – these stand-alone concepts aren’t new. But if our organizations are willing to truly embody them together, linchpinned by leaders who can assume humble, nonheroic roles and individual team members who embrace new realms of responsibility, they will set the standard for effective enterprise in the years to come.”