The Ringleader Approach to Leading Teams

July 24, 2016
Paul LaRue

Think for a moment about how many teams work within your organization.

There are the set teams such as finance, R&D, logistics, operations, and sales. Then there are the temporary or impromptu teams that organize for a presentation or special project, then disband until another team groups for the next task.

Many times leaders get too involved in over-managing these myriad teams and do them a disservice by not letting their talents come through, allowing them to develop, and taking ownership in what is accomplished.

One way to properly lead multiple teams is to take the approach of a circus ringleader.

Think about the circus ringleader (or some call ringmaster). Their job is to introduce the various acts to the audience and guide them through the show, promoting what is about to happen, building anticipation, and soliciting applause and appreciation for the skills and talents of the different acts on stage.

In conjunction, they prepare the other acts (teams) to take stage for their time in the spotlight. Many times, these teams perform simultaneously, such as a 3-ring circus, and the ringleader must ensure that each act can co-perform without interference from the other acts.

Additionally, the ringleader sets the culture for the organization. Many circus performers love the sense of “family” that the lifestyle provides, the connection they have, and how they must work separately yet together to ensure the next show is the best yet.

A ringleader in the business world can do the same thing. Each team – each act – has a special talent set that performs a certain skill and feat. It’s the ringleader’s job to put them out front on stage, promote them, build clear expectations, and step back to allow them to showcase their abilities. And “backstage,” the ringleader makes sure they coordinate ample time to practice and train under the tent, to be fed and housed, and to funnel the needed resources for them to take their performances to the next level.

And through this all, the ringleader, while being in front of the audience frequently, never takes the spotlight for themselves. Their entire focus is to allow the acts to be “stage-ready” and have the audience – their customers – leave with a “wow” experience. While they do a lot of work behind the scenes between events in coordinating the business of the circus, they take a back seat to the real stars, their people.

These are very practical applications to being a leader today. In a workplace that wants deeper connection, development, and even a sense of “family,” leaders who hog the limelight won’t do. Today’s employees want a ringleader who will put them out on display so they can show their talents and perform to the best of their abilities. And at the end of the day, they want a leader who will support them, take care of them, and spur them on to get better.

Determine to be a ringleader today. Put your people center stage and let them impress your customers.

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Paul LaRue is the creator of The UPwards Leader and Instigator for Lead Change Group. His background in senior leadership, strategic planning, culture change, and people and organizational development gives him unique insight into the workings of successful organizations. Paul has given speeches and training sessions for many public and private entities and stresses the virtue of a culture that centers around core values and character in leadership.

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