Episode 8: It’s The Leader, Not The Team

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When teams don’t perform well, some leaders blame the team. They think, “If only I had a better team, we would be getting better results. “That mentality is false. It’s ultimately the leader, not the team. Listen to learn why.

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • What do most leaders do when their team isn’t performing?
  • It isn’t the team that made a difference. It’s the leader.
  • What happens when workers felt undervalued and ignored?
  • The results you’d get when the leader listened to their people, change the culture and work environment, and empower them to make decisions.
  • The change of leadership can turn things around from the worst to the best.

Resources Mentioned

Full Episode Transcript


What do most leaders do when their team isn’t performing?

As a leader, sometimes we have a team that doesn’t perform. They don’t get the results we want. And what happens? Some leaders when that happens, they think to themselves, If I just had a better team, then I would be getting better results.

“It’s not me. It’s just that I’m with a bad team.”

So they end up blaming the team and even maybe even blaming other things and making excuses when in reality it’s not the team, it’s the leader.

As the leader, you were ultimately responsible for your team. And the thing is, example after example has shown that you can have the same team won underperforming a lot and you change the leader and suddenly they become high performing.

The only difference is the leader. So it’s not the team. It’s the leader.

"As the leader, you were ultimately responsible for your team." ~ Thomas R. Harris Share on X


It isn’t the team that made a difference. It’s the leader.

Let me give you some examples. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin in their book, Extreme Ownership has a chapter entitled No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders. And in that, they tell the story about Navy SEAL training and the drills and practices they have with boats.

They have different teams, each boat with a leader and they do different drills on the boats.

One team kept getting first place. They kept winning over and over and another team kept getting last place or close to last place. They weren’t doing well. The instructors decided to do something. They switched the leaders in the top boat and the lowest boats.

When they started doing more drills, the team that had been doing the worst started winning. The team that had been doing well, kept doing well because they had been working as a team well with the other good leader.

It wasn’t the team that made a difference, it’s the leader. Simon Sinek and his book The Infinite Game talks about when Jack Colley became the police chief of the Castle Rock Police Department.

Before he came, he had, well, what was it? Kind of a typical culture. In many police departments and in many businesses, people felt undervalued, ignored, and unheard. And there’s the pressure to make the numbers above all else.

But he turned that around. He built a culture of trust. He listened to people. He actually had listening sessions. He changed the culture of the mentality of numbers first to serving one another and taking care of one another and serving the community.

That became the priority and through his leadership, he turned that department around.


What happens when workers felt undervalued and ignored?

Charles Duhigg in his book Smarter, Faster, Better, discusses the G.M. auto plant that was in Fremont, California. It had closed down in the early eighties. It was considered the worst auto factory in the world.

People were doing drugs while at work, they were drinking and all sorts of things. People would mess with the car so that after someone bought them, they would kind of rattle over time or whatever it may be.

And the thing is, GM then, what they cared about was the line not stopping. The line had to continue, had to keep moving. The workers felt as long as it kept moving, it really kind of didn’t matter what they did. And like many places, as we mentioned, they also felt undervalued and ignored.


The results you’d get when the leader listened to their people, change the culture and work environment, and empower them to make decisions.

After they closed, Toyota won to start building cars in the United States. They worked out with GM to use the Fremont, California plant, but they had a stipulation they had to hire 80% of the workers that were there from when it was the worst auto factory in the world.

But Toyota had a different leadership mentality, a different leadership, period. It wasn’t about the line moving. No matter what. They gave power to the employees to pull that cord, to stop the line, to make sure problems were fixed.

Then they gave the employees to make changes and rearrange their work area to make it the most efficient it could be.

They told them that they would implement every complaint and suggestion made, and if not, then they would publicly give a written response. Why they wouldn’t or couldn’t implement that suggestion or complaint.

Three others changed the culture and the environment they worked in. They’d listened to people, different leadership, mostly the same people, and they got completely different results.

They opened it in 1984 and by 1986 its productivity was higher than any other GM facility and was twice that of what it was before. All because of leadership.


The change of leadership can turn things around from the worst to the best.

Then you have the books by Captain Marquet and Captain Abrashoff, who were captains one on the sub and one on the ship in the United States Navy. And when they inherited those ships, they were the worst ship, the worst sub. But they did a different kind of leadership.

They changed their leadership, they changed the way they ran the ship, and they went from the worst to the best, even beating different records and being examples in ways to others.

It wasn’t the people. It wasn’t the team. It was the leadership.


Final Thoughts

Now, these were just a few examples that showed how the same team had different results because of leadership. So my question for you is, as a leader, are you blaming?

Are you taking responsibility when your team doesn’t perform? Are you trying to cast blame and make yourself look good and then look bad to hold yourself separate from them?

Are you taking responsibility and looking at, hey, what can we do differently? Hey, how can we improve? How can I help my team? How can I serve my team? What’s your mentality?

You see, the great thing about ownership is that when you take ownership, you can then act and do something about it. When all you do is blame, you’re saying something else’s fault and then you can’t. Are you more likely don’t do anything about it? So how do you create a higher-performing team?

We’ll talk about that in the next episode. In the next episodes, we’ll talk about some steps you can take to help you create better-performing teams if your teams do not perform as well as you think.

So this is how you can improve as a leader and things you can implement to help your team do better.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of No More Bad Leaders. If this episode meant something to you, I would be honored if you share it with someone who would benefit from it. You can find more episodes here.

If you have any comments, questions, or inquiries, feel free to contact me.

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