Monday, November 14, 2011

Another Kind of Leadership

We've been reading a lot lately about Steve Jobs' leadership style, and for the last generation about guys like Jack Welch, Bill Gates, Richard Branson and even Donald Trump.  In most cases, the purpose of leadership appears to be about creating something useful, maybe beautiful, and inevitably profitable.

Last weekend I attended the girls cross-country banquet at our local regional high school.  The student population at the school is about 1,400.  When the girls run meets, they typically run against teams of 18-22 girls.  In some cases, more like 8-12.  A really big team would have 35 runners.

Our girls cross-country team this year had 127 runners.   They were all at the banquet whooping it up, singing, accepting varsity letters and gifts and saying unbelievably nice things about one another, their coaches and their parents.  And they were hugging.  (There's a lot more hugging in high school these days than there used to be when I attended.  In fact, this is how much hugging I remember: none.)  Today, female high school cross-country runners apparently hug all the time.

The coach of the team is in his 36th year.  There's something about what he does, the way he does it, and the way he inspires the team that attracts 5 or 6 times the number of girls that other, comparably-sized schools attract.  And for a sport that involves running long, hard distances one day, and hills another, and track workouts another, and a 6 a.m. Tuesday workout if you didn't beat your best time at the meet on Monday--these girls are unbelievably happy.

This coach will never be on the cover of Wired, or featured in Business Week.  We will never read about his "10 immutable rules of leadership."  He exercises a kind of leadership that isn't about profit.

But it's the kind of leadership of which, I am certain, we could use a lot more.

It turns out the girls won the state tournament in their division this year.   But even if they hadn't, you just needed to sit through a little bit of the banquet to know that it would have been a very good year anyway.