It’s Time to Elevate Your Leadership Game

How do you cultivate long-term commitment within your team?

Many teams today are not really teams at all – organizationally, structurally, and motivationally they are not set up to work as individual parts of a larger, unified whole. Often they reflect outdated organizational charts that have little to do with current reality. There are times when a leader realizes their team is actually a collection of individuals who are looking out for themselves. Left in this state, a team can actually become a divisive and damaging cancer to the organization.

Is it little wonder, then, that leaders seek help in cultivating commitment within their teams? The problem isn’t necessarily with the team members or leaders themselves, but what the team is being asked to do: work together without any larger sense of organizational direction or purpose.

Solution: It’s Time to Elevate Your Leadership Game

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Chess, Not Checkers, by Mark Miller

As organizations grow in volume and complexity, the demands on leadership change. The same old moves won’t cut it any more.

The early days of an organization are like checkers: a quickly played game with mostly interchangeable pieces. Everyone, the leader included, does a little bit of everything; the pace is frenetic. But as the organization expands, you can’t just keep jumping from activity to activity. You must think strategically, plan ahead, and leverage every employee’s specific talents—that’s chess. Leaders who continue to play checkers when the name of the game is chess lose.

Chess Not Checkers, by Mark Miller, delivers four essential strategies from the game of chess that will transform leadership and organizations.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In Chess Not Checkers, Mark Miller uses a business fable to demonstrate that leaders who elevate their leadership game will in turn make their teams and organizations stronger.

According to Miller, the game of chess contains four specific parallels that can inform and transform teams and organizations seeking new levels of performance. Miller uses the simplicity, repetitiveness, and reactions found in the game of checkers to set up the game of chess as in instructive lesson for leaders in any organization.

 People want to be valued; they want to be useful; they want to contribute. When you make the right moves, people show up in a whole new way.

Most of us began our leadership journey utilizing an approach with striking similarities to the game of checkers, a fun, highly reactionary game often played at a frantic pace. Any strategies we employed in this style of leadership were limited, if not rudimentary.

The game today for most leaders can be better compared to chess – a game in which strategy matters; a game in which individual pieces have unique abilities that drive unique contributions; a game in which heightened focus and a deeper level of thinking are required to win.

Bet on Leadership – Growing leaders grow organizations

  • Leadership growth precedes organizational growth
  • Capacity to grow determines capacity to lead
  • Identify emerging leaders and invest in them early
  • Strengthen your leadership team to become source of additional leadership capacity

Act as One – Alignment multiplies impact

  • Define your win
  • Get agreement from leadership team
  • Cascade and reinforce the win throughout the organization
  • Keep your organization aligned on what matters most

Win the Heart – Engagement energizes effort

  • Leverage unique capabilities of each person
  • Help people find and fulfill their dreams
  • Give people real responsibility
  • Show people you care

Excel at Execution – Greatness hinges on execution

  • Measure what matters most
  • Build your organization on systems, not personality
  • Communicate performance visually
  • Narrow your focus

Mark Miller, Chess Not Checkers 

A NEXT STEP

You may have begun your leadership path using actions similar to the game of chess – basic, repetitive moves, often carried through at a fast pace with little strategy.

Today you find yourself in a whole new game – one in which strategy matters, individual pieces matter, and intense concentration and focus is required.

At your next team meeting, list the four moves developed by Mark Miller on a white board or flip-chart. For each of the four moves, start where you are – discuss how your organization defines the move. If necessary, modify the definition until your team is in agreement.

Over a period of two weeks, arrange a series of four meetings in which your team will be tackling one of the four moves at each meeting.

Discuss the three biggest challenges facing your team in the area of “Bet on Leadership.” Develop action plans to meet, and overcome each of these challenges. Set a timeline for the action plans, and report on it monthly until it is accomplished.

Discuss your organization’s missional mandate and missional marks of success in this mandate. What are the current gaps between your stated intention and the reality facing your team in the area of “Act as One”?

Ask your team members to define your organization in terms of The Lone Ranger (every man for himself) or The Three Musketeers (all for one and one for all). Brainstorm ideas that could help your team “Win the Heart” and move toward all for one.

Discuss with your team how to “Excel at Execution.” List three action steps your team will take in the next month to accomplish excellence, including who needs to do what to make your vision a reality.


While all too often teams are “teams” in name only, individual commitment to a larger whole is an integral part of the success of any organization.

By elevating their leadership game, leaders can help their teams maintain commitment and accomplish their Great Commission call.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 12-2, published April 2015


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

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