Great Teams Trump Great Leaders

May 25 , 2019
By Eden Sahle

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

Nucor Corporation, one of the most profitable steel producing companies in the world, came up with a completely new system that relied on a concept that it is easy to teach anyone to be productive but impossible to teach people work ethic if they did not have it in the first place.

The company placed greater emphasis on the character rather than the specific educational background, practical skills, specialised knowledge or work experience. What the steel producer wanted to do more than anything else was to build a strong team.

I recently saw such a system in action. A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to work with a man in his forties who created several successful businesses in Switzerland and Poland. He was easy going and trusting of his staff.

His employees were diligent and efficient. He receives tasks completed strictly on schedule. Mostly in their 20s, this group of employees drive the company.

No business can thrive without a good team. It is important to have capable leaders and forward-looking visions and missions. But unless this can create the environment in which a team can thrive, it will be for nought.

This is a rare quality in Ethiopia. From the public to the private sector, team building is given very little attention, leading to inefficiency and loss.

Effective leadership is misunderstood in Ethiopia. A great leader is often considered to be one who can do all of the work. It is rarely one that can encourage and influence teamwork.

If we depend on individuals as the primary driving force of success for a country or a business, we can rest assured that we can only depend on them as long as they are around.

The giant misunderstanding is that some individuals do not need to build teams, for the simple reason that they do not require one.

But institutions that can execute establishment visions and objectives cannot be built in that manner. Indeed, it is a collective effort that either brings a positive or negative result. This is true for a country and a business.

Creating a great team of people defines actions as having the liberty to do what seems to be in the best interest of the country or company at any time. It is quite common to find the reverse in Ethiopia. Setting a new direction, vision and strategy without having the right people who can be devoted and aligned behind it can be as good as having no direction at all.

Building a great dedicated team never comes easy. But once organised, they are self-motivated and do not need to be micromanaged or controlled. They manage themselves, becoming a great addition to teams who are producing remarkable results. This is not just to bring the fair distribution of responsibilities and credits but to practically execute substantial growth.

This by no means implies knowledge and education is irrelevant, but they are teachable unlike character, work ethic and devotion to fulfilling obligations.

Instead of focusing on oneself, it is critical to invest resources on creating a successful team. With all the attention paid to leaders, it might be tempting to shower oneself with credit, taking it away from where it belongs.

Leaders are supposed to prioritise and delegate. They should listen and provide resources that can allow the team to be productive. Without a team, success could only last as long as the company does not grow in scale. Otherwise, too much time and resources will be lost on micromanaging every single item.

Superheroes only exist in fiction. Everyone in the real world created a great institution with the support of others. This is the harsh truth most people do not tell themselves or others. Making this a norm rather an exception is the ideal success of leadership for creating change.

The path to success is found by confronting brutal facts and collaborating with others to rectify it. It is about creating a culture of teamwork for a greater purpose. Leadership is all about organising teams that can create lasting impact for progress.

PUBLISHED ON May 25,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 995]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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