Organisations are collections of human beings. And the best organisations have leaders capable of facilitating the most effective ways for them to work together collaboratively toward a common goal.

Freek Vermeulen, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the London Business School, cites numerous studies that have sought to determine what characteristics lead, over time, to optimal performance. Surprisingly – charisma, personal drive and turbo-powered energy don’t feature among them. Instead, success depends more on community-based intangibles like culture, organisational identity, knowledge sharing, trust and relationships.

In executive coaching, I seek to enable the leaders I work with to discern something invaluable: success comes not from products and patents, but from people – the people they can help to grow and flourish – their teams.

Corporate finance expert Alex Edmans concurs with Vermeulen: excellent financial results are created by excellent communities, by which he means communities that function, collaborate, share and trust optimally. And building such communities is not a race, nor a contest to hire the “best talent out there.”

From a Gestalt perspective, people always have the potential to find, release and cultivate talents they never knew they had if they’re granted the conditions for this kind of discovery. Good leaders, I suggest, already know that the “best talent” is already in here, not out there. Perfectly ordinary people can be inspired to do extraordinary things; and close collaboration with one another is one means of discovering and releasing previously unacknowledged and unexamined aptitudes and talents.

Sporting analogies in executive coaching have a certain appeal, and they certainly remain popular in popular corporate lingo, possibly because leaders enjoy likening themselves to sporting gods. But because something delivers a quick ego-boost doesn’t make it especially valuable or effective.

Building a community might not be quite as exciting a metaphor as winning a golfing tournament or a boxing match. But it’s the cultivation of these intangible resources that ultimately leads to sustainable competitive advantage.

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