OK….here goes…..what do Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs have in common?
Yes, they were all inventors; and yes, they changed the world. But, there was something else, which history will pronounce important as well. Know what it is?
All three were player coaches; that is, they coached their teams and invented too—doing both equally well. They had the proper balance in both roles, which is very difficult to do. And they knew, viscerally, the value of failure in ultimately producing better products.
These icons were able to emotionally attach their teams to a goal, thereby deeply tapping into team creativity and ownership of the problem(s) at hand. They led their people, inspiring them to produce great things and most of all to think out-of-the-box. They knew intuitively when to get down and dirty into the work with them and when to trust their teams to get the job done—to stand by and cheer them on; or if necessary, help snow-plow them forward.
Edison’s freethinking spirit and bonds with his workers promoted a creative atmosphere for everyone to bask in. It was not about punishing people and teams for failure. It was about encouragement and understanding the human spirit…motivation by example and working as hard as everyone else….gaining respect and giving it when it was due…..same with Ford and Jobs.
It is leadership in action. These men were incredible project managers, able to consistently blend technical skills and management/leadership principles together.