Are you someone who will lead even when you know there’s little chance of winning a championship? There’s more to winning than receiving a trophy. Here are three things leaders should consider, as illustrated in this real-life story.
Each fall thousands of people gather outside Portland, Oregon amongst brilliant foliage, in cold wind and rain. The best of the best high school marching bands come to fiercely compete for the title of champion – the very best in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a sight that must be witnessed to be believed. Someday, someone is going to make a movie about this.
Bus loads of musicians travel hundreds of miles. They’re accompanied by tractor-trailer trucks stuffed with instruments, equipment and props. This one incredible day is why they have prepared for months.
The cutthroat competition starts early; twenty-four bands sequentially take the field, one immediately following another. They are allowed only thirteen minutes to set up, perform and strike their elaborate show, which each involves hundreds of people. They compete for one reason . . . to win one of the precious evening finals competition slots. By late afternoon the results are in.
About half the bands don’t make the cut.
The evening finals competition begins, but with a strange sight that is easily seen by the entire stadium. The crowd witnesses the “winning” bands competing on the field while at the same time the “losing” bands are seen just behind the field. They are packing up their uniforms, elaborate props and school spirit signs. Eventually, the bus engines start and they slowly limp away from the stadium. All of this is in plain sight of the remaining bands that are now competing for the championship trophy.
How sad it is to see hundreds of musicians lose and leave on buses before the completion has even ended. Our family empathetically nicknamed them the “frowny-face” buses. A frowny-face emoticon seemed to best sum up the seemingly sad early departures. Despite months of relentless practice, investment and effort these wonderful musicians would not be champions.
So what is the point of leading a huge effort when there’s little chance of glory? Leaders who lead teams that aren’t likely to win the championship know something other leaders miss:
1. Leaders create hope. You can’t win if you don’t play. Leaders position people to play, creating the possibility of winning. The presence of hope in your organization has immense value.