A leader may make decisions and plans, but executing on that vision requires a team. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the positive attributes of the leader who knows how to give credit where credit is due.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of The Tough Things First podcast. I’m a writer and investigator in California. Here with me is, Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley history. Hello, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hello there, Rob. Good to be with you today.
Rob Artigo: In many of the Tough Things First podcast’s, we’ve done so many here and we’ve enjoyed them together. It seems there’s no goal a business leader or entrepreneur can endeavor to achieve where you don’t say something or point out that they really shouldn’t try, they shouldn’t pretend, and they shouldn’t insist on doing anything alone or doing it alone. Is that fair to say?
Ray Zinn: Sure. We know what a loner is. A loner is not a positive word, is it?
Rob Artigo: No, not particularly.
Ray Zinn: So, you don’t want to be known as a loner.
Rob Artigo: I know this was on your mind recently because you had written and I spotted it, was “Success is not a solo journey it requires a team of good people.”
Ray Zinn: Exactly.
Rob Artigo: Is it common, do you think, for leaders or those who call themselves leaders to ignore the team aspect?
Ray Zinn: Well, as they say, there’s no I in team. The I being the little I, and that’s another saying, “There’s no I in team.” So when you focus on yourself and you’re focused on your own success, you leave out the team. We’ve all known sports people, players that always want the ball, “Throw me the ball, get me the ball, let me run with the ball.” Whatever. Running with the ball is not a good way to develop a team. There are no heroes in teams. There’s zeroes in teams, but no heroes. You don’t want to be a hero, you want to be in the team, but not the team, as you would.
And so everybody likes to have their own view or opinions when you’re a team. Let them express their opinion, let them express their views. Don’t you be the hero or the one that’s always out there in front wanting the ball, “Let me run with the ball.”
I mentioned success is not a solo journey. You don’t become successful just because of yourself. There are a lot of other people involved that help you achieve your success. That’s called humility. Humility is a real key to what I refer to as successful people. I don’t refer to success as people who are not humble. They may have made a lot of money, they may have acquired a lot of fame, but to me, that’s not success.
Success is where you are contributing more than your share to the team. Like in a marriage, a marriage is a team, and I’ve been married for 62 years. I worry more about my wife than I do about myself, and she worries more about me than she does about herself. That’s how you survive in a marriage or in a good company is where you think more about the team than you do about yourself. And I talked about my marriage. I think more about my wife than I do about myself. I don’t think I could have survived 62 years in a marriage if I was focused on myself and what I wanted as opposed to what my wife wanted. So again, success is not a solo journey.
Rob Artigo: Harvard Business Journal addressed this in a way and talked about how many people believe a leader is either high standards, results oriented type or the kind of leader that builds team engagement, but they can’t be both. Apparently that’s a common opinion. The report also appears to prove that assumption wrong from what I read, and it says, leaders with bold skills apparently ranked very high for success.
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. Gandhi was considered to be a real humble person and yet a great leader. The best leaders are the best followers. Unless you’re a good follower, you can’t be a good leader. And a follower is somebody who’s more subservient in the team as opposed to the one who’s always say, “Give me the ball. Let me run with it. Let me take it. Let take it from here.” That’s not a team.
A team is where everybody pulls together, works together, succeeds together. I’d like to say it is more of a success team as opposed to a successful individual. And we all know people who have made a lot of money, who’ve acquired a lot of fame and fortune, but they’re not highly respected. So I would rather be highly respected than highly wealthy. Trust me, I really, really believe that. I want to be highly trusted, highly respected than be wealthy.
Rob Artigo: I’d venture to say there’s probably plenty of former professional athletes out there sitting in $5 million houses with nobody around them. They have five cars in their five car garage. One of them is a Maserati type of thing, and they have their workout rooms and they’re doing things by themselves because basically nobody wants to hang out with them anymore. Ty Cobb, famously was despised by his teammates, but one of the greatest baseball players ever. And he spent his waning years alone because he was such a despised person.
Ray Zinn: Well, and again, I would rather be highly respected, highly trusted than to be highly wealthy. And I mean that sincerely, because once you’re dead, you can’t take it with you. When you leave this earth, you can’t take it with you. We think of people who are highly respected, like Abraham Lincoln. We don’t think of him as being wealthy at all, or Churchill, Winston Churchill. I don’t think of him as being highly wealthy, but highly respected. We want to think of what we’re going to take with us when we leave this earth. It’s really our name, our respect, our reputation. I want to be known as somebody who was loved, not hated.
Rob Artigo: This Harvard Business Journal article I was looking at also said that, and I thought this was interesting, they actually looked at data from 60,000 leaders. They crunched this data and they said that it’s a rare skill to have a set of skills, I guess. A rare set of skills to pair those two together, that only 13% were viewed as proficient in both results and team engagement. I was surprised by that, but are you surprised that it’s rare?
Ray Zinn: I think it’s probably pretty rare. Again, I don’t view as being highly wealthy as being successful. I don’t always view life in terms of what I get, but more what I give. Like we referred to Gandhi or Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa is known, she was not wealthy, I don’t think. And yet she was highly regarded, highly respected because of what she contributed.
I want to be a contributor. I don’t want to be a gainer. I don’t want to see what I can get. I want to see what I can give. That’s what I want to be known for. What did I give? Not what did I get? As they say, it’s better to give than to receive.
Rob Artigo: On the team aspect of this team building aspect of this. Part of the model here as a leader, I assume includes giving credit where credit is due, where you’re not taking full credit for every success, but you’re also sharing the pain of setbacks.
Ray Zinn: Right. If you’re worried about taking the credit, then you don’t deserve the credit. So that’s in my view, in fact, I’m going to write up musing about that. So let’s not be worrying about let the credit come to you, not you taking the credit. Let the credit be given to you not taken. Does that make sense?
Rob Artigo: Yeah, it does. And in fact, when you do the musing on it, you send it over to me and we might do a podcast on it. It could be a whole podcast just on that one thing.
Ray Zinn: Exactly. So anyway, well, this has been a good conversation, and hopefully our listeners enjoyed at least got our perspective on what it means that success is not a solo journey.
Rob Artigo: Ray, our listeners can join the conversation at toughthingsfirst.com. Your questions listeners, are always welcome. Your comments as well. Follow, Ray Zinn at Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And of course, pick up Ray’s books, Tough Things first and The Zen of Zen. One, two, and three. You will not regret it. Thank you, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thank you, Rob.