Another update from the Jungle….
Building a successful team is never easy. Managers and business owners who hire “yes-men” tend to ride their egos and a false consensus to financial ruin. On the other hand, having too many different opinions can paralyze decision-making and cause companies to fall apart. What should an intelligent manager or business owner do?
Take a lesson from one of the best team managers of all time. George Washington formed a Cabinet that included Alexander Hamilton as Treasury Secretary and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. These two men didn’t like each other personally, and they had opposing political philosophies.
Hamilton wanted a strong central government and an industrialized economy. Jefferson wanted a weak central government with most power residing with the states and an economy based on agriculture. These conflicting visions of America are as strong today as they were over 200 years ago.
Washington kept his feuding Cabinet members functioning as a team, and he did it while building the political structure of the U.S. from scratch. The traditions we esteem today were created by Washington to work around the political battles in his Cabinet and with the leaders of Congress.
Washington made it all work by the force of his personality. He was calm and assured under pressure. He was usually able to contain his anger and find a compromise to disputes. He gathered data carefully and listened to all sides of an argument. Then he made his own decisions.
Building a functioning team means having calm, assertive leadership that listens to all viewpoints before making a final decision. Washington was one of the best at it.
For more information about Washington, you can choose from hundreds of books about him. A recent favorite of mine that is informative and well-written is Washington, A Life, by Ron Chernow (2010). Chernow also wrote a biography of Alexander Hamilton and served as a technical advisor to Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton: An American Musical.
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