There is another level above win-win.

Be the board.

There are a lot of ways to lead. I aspire quite imperfectly to only one of them.

Some leaders lead from “win-lose” – I’m going to win at your expense. I need you to lose so I can win. I had a boss once who built his business on this principle. He was a sad, insecure and unpopular man.

Some leaders lead from “lose-win” – I’m co-dependent on you – you can suck the life out of me and I’ll let you do it. I’ve never had this boss but I’ve seen them in action. They let everyone around them run over them all the time. They are worn out as a lifestyle and nobody respects them. They make no lasting impact in the world around them.

I believe most leaders lead from “win-win” – they work hard to set up environments where both the owner/leader and the stakeholder/employee will win. Each of them winning is dependent on the other one winning. I’ve had this boss a number of times and they are a pleasure to work with and for. I always wanted to work harder for them.

Some leaders take it to yet another level. What if you decided that, as the leader of the business, you didn’t need to win anymore? What if your focus was now going to be creating win-win environments for others, and that those environments didn’t involve you having to win or lose?

Be the Board
In their book, “The Art of Possibility”, which I read a number of years ago, Zander & Zander called it “be the board.” Most of us choose to be one of the game pieces and interact with the other game pieces on the board. When we interact with the other game pieces, we have a choice to create win-lose, lose-win, or win-win for the two of us.

But at the highest level of leadership we can live at a whole different level and remove ourselves from the game altogether. At the highest level of leadership we decide to focus on connecting this person to that person to create win-win. To do so we become the board on which people play the game of business.

What if you became the board on which people played the game of business, or even the game of life? What would that look like for you? Do you know someone who lives this way, always creating environments where two other people can win, and then slipping out the back door without taking credit?

Servant Leadership
This isn’t a new idea. The idea has been around for thousands of years. Zander & Zander just gave it a great name – “be the board”. Sometimes it’s called servant leadership. A servant leader uses their position to be the champion of making others successful, connecting people to opportunities and to other people who will all win as a result of that third party leader putting them together.

Zig Zigler said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” Jim Rohn said, “Whoever renders service to many puts himself in line for greatness.”

Want to be successful? Make sure you practice win-win. Want to be a great leader, leave a lasting legacy, and get more out of life than you could possibly imagine? Remove yourself from the win-win equation altogether and become the board on which people play the game of business.

Good leaders create a win-win environment for themselves and for others. Great leaders make themselves the board and focus on connecting one winner to another winner. If you do that, you’ll get to your own goals and put yourself in line for greatness.”

Oh, and it’s possible no one will ever know you were “great” except you. It’s part of the joy of being the board. People don’t have to know you created a small place in this world for others to win. You know, and isn’t that it’s own reward? It is for those who decide to be the board.

Let’s all decide to be the board on which people play they game of business.