I was reminded of an important leadership principle as I watched a soccer practice game between some second graders last night. The first half of the game, one team had a dominant and skilled player called Katrina. She scored a goal and kept offensive pressure on the opposing team the entire half. The half ended 1-0.
In the second half the coach moved this goal scorer to defense. I imagine this move had more to do with giving everyone a chance to play all positions rather than some genius strategic decision. Nevertheless, the decision resulted in an interesting second half. Katrina was obviously the best player but she disappeared in the second half.
More importantly, without her offensive pressure, the other team controlled the ball and to everyone’s surprise scored five goals in the second half. Arguably, the most skilled player on the field wasn’t much help on defense and without an active offense; there was a significant turnaround in the game.
I thought about how this situation illustrated a couple of leadership principles.
For maximum productivity, match the skills of your team members to the right job. Leaders must know the people in their organization. They must take the time to evaluate and understand the skills of their team or can rely on managers for this evaluation and understanding. Leaders also must understand the skill requirements of the job and the overall vision. Leaders find ways to help their team members to succeed – so the team member is fulfilled and the organization meets its goals.
The best defense is offense. You can't expect to defend your market share by just playing defense. Few companies understand this concept as well as Apple. If you had the hottest selling consumer electronic that was only a few years old and still going strong would you be willing to introduce a new version right before the holidays? Apple, always playing offense, unveiled the iPOD Nano, a smaller version of the standard iPOD and a replacement for now-discontinued iPOD mini. Although the original iPOD has not come close to working through its product lifecycle, Apple keeps pushing. Last week it also announced an iPOD that shows video. It is 45 percent slimmer than the previous model yet has a larger battery and better graphics screen. And just as the iPod changed the way we all listen, this new iPOD video may change the way we watch.
-- Muriel Strode