How to Pick Leaders of Unstoppable Teams

unrealized potentialI spend a lot of time around mental health professionals. I use to serve on my State’s Licensing Board for Psychologists. Many of my clients and friends are in the field. My wife is a therapist.

As I’ve gotten to know people in this profession, I’ve discovered that they, like many professions, tend to separate into two basic types of people. The first type I’ll call, “Qualified.” The second type is “Endlessly Improving.”

Qualified: Someone who learns what is needed to obtain and maintain their qualifications.

Endlessly Improving: Someone who learns what is needed out of a personal passion for the topic and to increasingly offer the best service possible to clients.

If a loved one would ever benefit from working with a therapist, which type would you prefer they see? I assume the same preference applies to yourself, as well.

What if you ran a counseling clinic? What kind of therapists would you hope to attract to work with you?

I’ve discovered that these two types of professionals exist in every field.

Those for whom the basic qualification was the end-point of their learning. And those for whom the basic qualification was the starting point of their growth.

What Kind of Leaders Are on Your Team?

Why do we tend to relate to leadership as if it were any different?

Most leaders view leadership as a position. Not an activity they engage in.

Position: “I’m the Senior Executive Vice President. This is the size of my P&L. Here’s my reserved parking space. That’s my fancy car. I bought that with part of my enormous bonus. Over there is my office. Farther over there is the bigger office I’m gunning for. I’ll get that once we close this next deal.”

Activity: “My team can be the highest performing in our industry. These people are awesome. Tons of potential. They don’t all see that yet, so I’m helping them with their mindset. I’m also engaging them in strategy development so they can be a part of building the path to that goal. I am reading an awesome book right now. It is really helping. Here, I’m excited about this; I’ll send you a copy.”

The best leaders view leadership as a skill set that can and should constantly be practiced, grown, refined, challenged and improved.

Why would you want anyone else on your team?

My Recommendation: If you are building a senior leadership team, avoid (like the plague) leaders who sit on their laurels. If you need to persuade someone to try to improve their own condition, they are made of the wrong stuff for senior leadership.

It’s not that these people can’t be ambitious. They might be very ambitious. But their ambition doesn’t extend to wanting to improve their performance. By extension, they don’t know how to improve the performance of others.

Because that isn’t how they think.

Seek out leaders who can’t help themselves from trying to grow and improve. It’s compulsive. It’s a passion. It’s an investment.

By extension, the want their teams to grow. They work to that end.

Are you building a leadership team – why would you choose anyone who brings less than Endless Improvement to the table?

Four Traits of Endlessly Improving Leaders

They Have Both Hands on A Compelling Vision: Call it what you will: Their “Why.” Their Personal Mission. Their Value Statement.  These leaders have a clear sense of what they and their teams could accomplish. They understand why their leadership is valuable. They seek to lead to the best of their ability.

Passion About the Success of Those They Lead: I love meeting these people. They wake up at night thinking about how to grow their people. They view a team member’s struggles as a personal struggle. They want to succeed personally. But they define personal success through the accomplishments and growth of their team.

Comfortably Curious and Humble: They believe there is always something else to learn. This might be a foundational skill to review and improve. This might be a sophisticated approach that takes focus and effort to learn.

Along with this, they realize that increased knowledge, on its own, produces diminishing returns. They pursue personal growth of character as well as relational and emotional maturity. They can be confronted. They seek out people who will challenge their assumptions.

Personal Thirst for Excellence: They find a personal sense of satisfaction in work done well. It might be their work. It might be the work of others. They might not even know who did the work. They just appreciate excellence. They understand the effort and commitment it takes to produce it.

It’s Either There, or It Isn’t

There is an acquaintance of mine. I believe he is in his late 70’s. He recently achieved his Doctorate in Psychology. He was already an attorney. And a licensed counselor. Before all of that, I believe he was an engineer.

He could be intimidating. But he’s not. He’s engaging to talk to. Enthusiastic. Every meeting that I’m in with him, he is very curious. He’s interested in other people. When he speaks, he’s either asking questions or making very good and unique observations.

He’s Endlessly Improving.

When you are selecting or investing in leaders – look for those who are endlessly improving.

When you are selecting senior leaders, you shouldn’t have anyone else on your team. These are the people who will shape and reinforce your culture.

What kind of workplace can “Qualified” leaders create? One that meets the regs, passes the bar, hit the targets and then moved no further.

What kind of workplace can “Endless Improving” leaders create? One that redefines excellences, raises the bar, blows through targets and looks for more.

These people just think and act differently. Look for them. Get them on your team.

This article is part of a series called 12 Key Traits to Look for When Building Your Dream Team. To read more click here.

Would You Like to Lead a Resilient and High Performing Team?

Are you passionate about building a high-performing team? Would you like to improve your (or your team’s) ability to lead growth? Is there an important, but challenging, opportunity that you want to advantage of?

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Email me at or call me at 907 522-7200.

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