Are We Great Yet?

In reference to a book he was reviewing, Bill Bradley, the former Senator and basketball star, wrote the following in today’s NY Times:

 I once asked the estimable Oscar Robertson what he thought of Michael Jordan, then in his third year in the NBA.  Oscar said, “He’s not great yet.”


Why not, I asked.


“Because he hasn’t learned how to make the worst player on his team good,” Oscar replied.


Want a standard to assess yourself as a leader?  To gauge the cultural health of your organization?  Ask yourself (and others): Does working in our organization help everybody—at every level, in every role—grow?  Does it make them better?


If yes, terrific.  What are you doing that makes it so?  How will you enhance and enrich your efforts, while protecting against possible threats?


If no, why not?  What do you need to be doing differently to raise your organization to a championship level?  What needs to be different within your culture?


Oscar Robertson’s criterion for greatness reminds me of Robert Greenleaf’s seminal piece, “The Servant as Leader,” in which he set forth his now famous “test” for servant leadership:


The best test, and most difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons?  Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?  And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society: Will they benefit, or, at least, will they not be further deprived?


TD Industries is a successful Texas-based HVAC commercial contractor; its late founder and subsequent generations of leaders were and are devoted to the practice and teaching of servant leadership principles.  On a corporate video made some years ago, a tough looking employee was asked what difference it had made in his life to work for a company that took servant leadership seriously.  “It has made me a better daddy,” he said.


What does working in your organization do for your people?  Are they really growing? 


Are we great yet?