In the last year I have had the honor of attending several retirement ceremonies for people I consider to be friends and great leaders. As I listened to my friends’ remarks during their retirement speeches, I realized how important peer leaders are to those who strive for continuous improvement and change. With the proper spirit of competition, support and cooperation, quality peers encourage you to become better than you are. It is easy to point to a current or former boss who provided a few words of wisdom, spent some time mentoring you or introducing you to some powerful people as sources of inspiration. Often we overlook the inspiration provided by those we work with and against every day. John Maxwell has long endorsed the 360 degree leader. Many have written about competition improving results. In many ways peer leaders may be more important in our personal growth as leaders than our bosses.
One common area peers are recognized as improving other organizational leaders is through competition. The peer may be your equal in another organization in the same industry courting the same customers, or within your organization leading a similar group. Their accomplishments provide inspiration to improve your own performance. Keeping up with or staying ahead of the competition, especially a friendly competition, encourages people to evaluate what the competition does well, which practices we can adapt and adopt, and identify improvements for performance ahead of them. Such continuous improvements start the momentum Gary Collins talks about in his book, Good to Great.
Another area peers help fellow leaders improve is by providing support. Support may come in a variety of ways and reasons. You may find a former competitor now works for your organization and understands the importance of your success because it translates into success for everyone. Your peer may have moved on to another organization working in a completely different field; however provides support because of your past relationship. Other members of your network maybe able to point you to an expert or service that meets your needs. Sometime their support results in a mutual benefit, many times there is no directly benefit.
Your peers may find they need your cooperation to accomplish their mission or you need theirs. Cooperation requires trust and confidence in the skills of the other. Completing a project together improves relationships and greases the wheels for future ventures. When two or more people or groups of people work to develop something new, and all the players do their part, the completed product often exceeds the quality for the same product produced by an individual. You have a good idea to make something work. Your peer adds to the idea and makes it better. Through cooperation both win and the organization completes its mission.
Developing a network of peer leaders helps you improve in many ways. Associating with other successful leaders improves your attitude, expands your sphere of influence, increases available resources and inspires you to accomplish more than you could on your own. Developing positive relationships with others allows each to provide support and cooperation today, yet compete against each other tomorrow. Developing positive relationships with peer leaders is its own reward. Acrimonious relationships make for a lonely retirement. Positive relationships fill your life with good friends and good times. The next time the guy running the shop across the hall knocks on the door looking for help, or stops to brag about his latest accomplishment, take the opportunity to improve yourself and become a better leader.
Thanks to those of you who have helped make me a better leader and a better person.
Watch photo: Christian Guthier from flickr.com Creative Commons License
Soccer photo: author
The 360 Degree Leader by John Maxwell,
Good to Great by John Collins