What the San Antonio Spurs, Bruce Springsteen and a Corrugated Packaging Company Can Teach Us About Shared Leadership

What the San Antonio Spurs, Bruce Springsteen and a Corrugated Packaging Company Can Teach Us About Shared Leadership

A few weeks ago, a friend asked if I was watching the NBA Finals. I confessed that I wasn’t. She basically ordered me to go watch highlights of the final game where the San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat. “It’s not just basketball, Lori! It’s Shared Leadership!” she said. Of course the sports announcers weren’t using those words, but everyone was talking about it. The Herculean LeBron James gave an amazing performance, but his prowess was not nearly as beautiful and powerful as the most harmonically aligned team in basketball history.

And speaking of harmonically aligned groups who is your favorite band? The one that really ignites you, sets you on fire? Mine is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. My godson’s is Phish. While these two groups seem worlds apart, what they have in common is the ability to take us places. In both cases, their magic and artistry lies not in each member’s individual awesomeness, but rather in what emerges when they play together. They become something “more than” embodied in the equation 1+1+1+1 = INFINITY. This transcendence is what’s possible when we come together as equals, while owning and rocking our greatness. And its not always easy by any means. These artists certainly have their individual and collective struggles. But they stick in there with each other, committed to the whole and to whom and what they can continuously become together.

But I first experienced Shared Leadership observing my father run his Vermont-based corrugated packaging company. Of course, I didn’t have those words at the time — only the visceral feeling of something good and right and powerful emerging in the way people related to each other and to the mission and values of our company. Led by my father, the entire company embodied the four pillars of Shared Leadership — showing up with their full humanity, each in their respective roles but relating all the same as equals, from a place of wholeness, trusting in the wisdom of each individual and of the group. Leading together in a way that embodied our core values and purpose. Making a profit was key but it was never the driver. Working together to build rich and meaningful relationships, thriving behaviorally from inside the organization out, that was always the foundation of Vermont Container.

I have had a long-term love affair with our capacity for group artistry. Where we transcend teamwork and elevate together into an inarticulable resonance and harmonic genius. I think of this intelligence and aspect of flow as Shared Leadership. And, it can happen anywhere — be it concert stages or basketball courts or factory floors.

We are capable of so much more than what we settle for in our day-to-day lives. But we won’t get to this higher capacity through pushing and strain, or willful sleepless nights burning the midnight oil. It will come through a re-orientation, shifting mindsets, opening hearts, devoted practice and supportive community.

Every year at Global Round Table Leadership, we gather a group of up to12 people to go on a nine-month virtual  journey together by telephone to build the heart, mind and muscles of “Shared Leadership.” This year’s Round Table starts October 7th, 2014.

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While they were saying it couldn't be done, it was done.
— Helen Keller