Where’s The Beef?


We can call them leaders.  We can assign them to a position.  We can give them a title.  None of these actions will make them leaders.  Leadership requires substance and is about who you are more than how you are labeled.

My own experience with learning leadership is it takes time to develop the skill, and continual improvement is a necessity.  Unfortunately, we are living at a time where a great many people claim the title of leader, but when we look at the substance of what they are offering we are left asking “Where’s The Beef!?”

When Clara Peller made this commercial at 81 years old she was selling burgers, but commenting on substance.  Substance is fundamental to leadership, and without the right answers to the following three questions, people may ask of our leadership, “Where’s The Beef?”

Do I Have Character?

There are a number of qualities which one could use to describe or define character.  In my view, the simplest answer to this question is about self-awareness.  Does the individual who claims to be a leader know who they are, have a set of uncompromising principles, and the willingness to sacrifice any opportunity to remain true to their beliefs.

Do I Have Purpose?

Uncompromising principles are almost always accompanied by a deep and meaningful sense of purpose.   This purpose is not born of selfishness or selfish ambition.  The purposes that produce and even demand character are about something bigger than self.   While many people will lead and claim to be leaders, only those with this selfless sense of purpose can provide the type of leadership which produces enduring organizations.

Do I Have Humility?

Enduring organizations are built on something more substantial than a particular individuals personality or vision.  They are built on a set of uncompromising principles and a purpose bigger than any individual.   All of this requires humility.

Humility is the most essential quality necessary for great team leadership, and team leadership is essential for building an enduring organization.  Team leadership is about shared vision, shared responsibility, and shared emotional commitment to the organizational vision.   No one individual is more essential or important than any other, because only together can they make the dream come true.

Once we evaluate ourselves based on these three questions, we can determine whether we are leaders of substance or superficiality.  We can discover our strengths and weaknesses. We can become more substantial leaders capable of building an enduring organization.

How will your life answer the leadership question, “Where’s The Beef?”

Red Auerbach and Team Leadership

Team Leadership
Team Leadership

Red Auerbach, Team Leadership

“After a certain amount of money, it don’t make a damn bit of difference. (A player) makes a million dollars, anything after that, it’s just numbers. So you have to appeal to his pride, his wanting to win, and you disregard the money. The only thing I did years ago was tell them, ‘Your salary is dependent solely on what I see with my eyes.’ Statistics don’t matter, contributions matter. Winning matters.’ You rewarded people that way. Today, you can’t do that — it’s all about stats and who’s getting theirs. So I would have had to change my approach. You adapt.”

Red Auerbach (Seeing Red After All These Years)

The business world appears to have discovered team leadership around 1992, when Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith published “The Wisdom of Teams.” This is a good book, but it has never made my pulse race as much as Pat Riley’s “The Winner Within,” or the sound of Red Auerbach’s voice saying anything about team leadership.

I spent the eighties in Boston as a Lakers fan, which explains the Riley reference (inspired by my favorite player of all time Magic Johnson). Despite my affinity for the team from the west, it was the team building of the Celtic’s which shadowed my young existence.

I can still remember attending my first Celtics game in 1980, and experiencing the magical moment of watching Larry Bird against Dr. J (I can also remember the extreme racism in the stands by some unruly fans, a factor any Celtic attendee of color had to deal with). Nothing could keep me from watching the Celtics even though I wanted the Laker’s to destroy them, because the Celtics personified team. The fans and even the city personified team.

This spirit and culture of team was built by Red Auerbach. The words of Bill Simmons explain it best.

Growing up in Boston in the ’70s and ’80s, we possessed three treasures that nobody else had: Fenway, the Garden and Red. He was our trump card. He had mystical powers. He made things happen. He fleeced other teams. He found diamonds in the rough. He intimidated officials. He stamped his winning imprint on everyone and everything. He was the Celtics. Sixteen championships in 30 years … and they all happened because of him.

Bill Simmons, Seeing Red After All These Years