“Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for achievement, and contribute to the success of a team.”
– Clayton Christensen, How Will You Measure Your Life?
It’s a big “if.” IF it’s practiced well.
Often, however, it’s not.
Many solo leaders are in over their heads, stressed out by the workload, unable to adapt to the challenges they face. And all those who depend upon them – their teams, their customers, their families – feel the impact of that.
I’ve been that stressed out leader myself. Always in a hurry. Always on the phone, or about to be. There’s never enough time. I’ve worked myself to the proverbial bone and still under-delivered for my team, my customers, and most importantly, my family.
At its best, partnership offers a better way. It offers more time and insight, more resilience and grit.
When I look at the peak experiences in my life so far – raising my two kids, discovering my purpose as an entrepreneur, and pursuing my ideas as a social scientist – there was always a partner at my side, surfing the challenges with me.
The best times have been when those partnerships were strong. The worst times have been when I tried to push too far on my own. I have felt the ecstasy of working with a partner like we are one mind in two places. I have felt the agony of a good partnership gone bad.
This made me think that partnership, as it is commonly practiced, is not “safe.” It is high reward, but high risk. This is because there are many ways to do it wrong, and only a few to do it right.
The path is not marked. The way is not clear.
Small differences in approach add up over time, for better and for worse. Many partners develop deep trust, surface and address the challenges they face, and achieve lasting success. Others ignore the challenges until it’s too late, when they’re already rolling off the proverbial tracks.
There are a few great organizations that have made partnership a replicable practice for their leaders across the board: the Mayo Clinic, Toyota and the U.S. Armed Forces.
There is a lot that we can learn from them.
Let’s go on that journey together.
Here is my background in bullets, in reverse order:
- Now teaching MBA and MSF students at the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida
- Worked at McKinsey & Company for 5+ years from 2010 to 2016, where I learned to lead organizational transformations as a project manager and/or operations expert
- Taught at New York University in the Economics Department from 2007 to 2010
- Did a Ph.D. in Economics under Tyler Cowen at George Mason University from 2003 to 2007
- Did a B.A. in Comparative Literature at Stanford University from 1998 to 2002
- Grew up in Detroit, Michigan