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How to Build a Powerful Team

One Friday, 15 years ago, a lady stepped into our open-plan office, took one up-down-sizing glance at me, and dismissing me as someone of no consequence walked past me towards my colleague saying, "Hi, I have an appointment with Modesta, the Managing Director."

My entire team had seen the whole incident. Without missing a beat, the colleague she saw worthy to speak to informed her with a chuckle, "That was her."

Visibly embarrassed, she came back to me trying to gain composure, mumbling something about not knowing that it was me.

I immediately sprang to her rescue, my bubbly self letting her know it was alright as I ushered her into our board room, telling her know that I truly looked forward to our conversation.

In this newsletter, I would like to talk about building a powerful team. One that is so equipped and empowered that others cannot tell, who the leader is, without a formal introduction. Not because of appearance, but because you share purpose, uphold the spirit of excellence, take ownership, and mentor-lead others you are willing to trust with power.

By God's grace, I have done this throughout my leadership career and would like to share the 6 principles I continue to live by. Feel free to add those that resonate with you to your team leadership toolkit.

1. Recruit Purpose

When I recruit, I look for people who are grounded in purpose, passionate about becoming change agents, and ambitious to further their careers.

Why? Because then they will see their partnership with our organization and me as a stepping stone to achieving their aims. By working towards furthering their dreams, they in turn, further ours.

Think about it; if a person is not going anywhere in their lives, there are less likely to be driven to take you anywhere either.

2. Train Excellence

I invest in training not only for skills but also for mindset. I don't want people that simply know how to do their jobs. I equip people that live to deliver excellence. They not only do what is asked of them, but also go over and above "to do it as best as it can be done by another human being" with access to the knowledge, resources, and support they do."

When you train for excellence, your team will look for opportunities to wow over and above the requirements of their job descriptions!

3. Coach Ownership

I equip, empower, and get out of the way to support from afar. This takes intentional investing in another person's growth. It is not always easy, or convenient, but this investment yields ever-appreciating dividends for all concerned.

What does this look like in practice? It looks like not having all the answers and not answering all the questions. It looks like answering, "what do you think?" with "what do you think?"

It looks like what Ericka Copening, a phenomenal leader I had the privilege of working with at the World Bank Group, did for me when I asked for her opinion on a course of action I was thinking of taking. She responded, "We hired you for your expertise, I defer to you." With that short response, Ericka empowered me to own my work, our unit, and the Bank's results along with her and the entire chain of command.

If you want to build a powerful team, coach for ownership.

4. Mentor- Lead

“True leaders don't create followers. They create more leaders.” -Tom Peters

Nothing irks me more than small-thinking and stagnation. This is why I commit to investing intentional, quality time getting to know and guiding each member of my team to discover, own, and unleash their leadership greatness. I found the definition of what this is called in the book The Mentor Leader by celebrated NFL Coach, Tony Dungy. In his book, In Charge, Dr. Myles Munroe pointed out that everyone is a leader in their area of calling and sphere of influence. Appreciating this, I seek to help each individual to contribute their strengths for individual, team, and organizational gain. I wholeheartedly believe in the greatness and leadership potential everyone carries and set out to call and draw it out of them at every opportunity. If it is true that "the success of a leader is the success of their successor" (Dr. Myles Munroe), ensure mission continuity by identifying and grooming successors from the beginning.

5. Trust with Power

People are often shocked by how much access and leeway I give colleagues. They wonder if it is wise to trust them with so much, advising that I instead keep my cards close to my chest.

This is my reasoning, If you are on my team, and I have invested in you, I trust you. The moment I don't trust you, we will have to part ways. This means that I am ready to be vulnerable and risk trusting you with power.

Have I been burnt by trusting people with power? Terribly. Has it tempered how much I trust and grant others in the future? Not much.

If you are to build a powerful team, you must entrust power to the individuals in the team. That comes with risk, but there is no other way for leaders who want to influence and impact others than to share access and power they need to succeed as leaders in a powerful team. You will have to count the cost in advance and be willing to pay it.

6. Promote Character

In a recent conversation with Ben Owden, Leadership Development Trainer of WhyLead Consultancy and Host of WhyLead Others Podcast, where he told me this quote from Norman Schwarzkopf who said "leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy."

When building a powerful team, I only promote character. This is because if the team member does not have the fortitude of character to serve their colleagues and the greater mission, no matter how much of a superstar they are at work, sooner or later, they will destroy the team and sabotage the mission.

Promote character, knowing that that person will care just as much for their colleagues and team, and will do even more to advance the mission and organization.

Which Principle Resonates with You Most as a Leader?

Share your feedback by commenting on this blog post, and we will feature it as a topic and give you a shout-out on the Modesta Mahiga 360 Leadership Podcast or Modesta Mahiga YouTube Channel. Please share this blog post to empower other leaders. Thank you.

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