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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Leadership: Why I Dislike "President of the Year" Awards

For too long we have glorified the leader at the expense of the team. Having just finished a grueling year as president of a not-for-profit, I am proud to report that I did not win our national organization's President of the Year award.

Throughout the year, members of my executive team and I debated if you could have an award-winning chapter without an award-winning leader, or vice versa. I truly believe that a strong team can make a successful organization, despite its leader, but that it is extremely unlikely that a strong leader can create a successful organization with a weak team.

I believe that your team is the key to success, not how wonderful I am, or am not. It doesn't matter brilliant my ideas are if I don't have team members who can make those ideas come to life. It doesn't matter that my vision for the organization is on-target if I don't have a team that embraces and pursues the vision as well. 

In Olympic boat races, who is most responsible for winning the eight? The eight rowers or the coxswain who calls the cadence, steers and provides motivation? Each role is essential and success only happens when everyone performs as assigned.

As a leader, my responsibility isn't to do everything. My job is to inspire, to facilitate and to provide oversight.

What I don't like about an award that honors a single individual out of a board of directors is that it devalues the contribution of the team by overly emphasizing one role. To win, you must glorify one individual's skills, ideas, thoughts and character. I know that who I am impacts my team. But I also know that, as a leader, what my team is like impacts who I am as a leader.

My single greatest source of stress this year came from under-performers on my team. They forced me to concentrate on areas that took me off my overall focus.

My single greatest source of strength this year came from the performers on my team. They allowed me to do what needed to be done, as well as covering areas outside of their assigned responsibilities. It was my pleasure to see them get recognition and honor for their efforts.

I didn't win President of the Year. But I did meet a majority of my goals, despite the bumps we experienced along the way.
  • Our team hosted a wonderful charity gala
  • We saw increased committee participation by our members
  • Small groups connected to start think tanks and specific-interest meetings
  • Leaders were identified for roles in 2008-2009
  • We ended the year as friends and colleagues


  1. Hmmm ... speaking from my experience with teams, I think I would have put your last bullet point as the first one ...