The T Shirt Guide to Leadership Teams

The T Shirt Guide to Leadership Teams
March 9, 2018 Scott Charlton

In this paper we present a light hearted look at the four different characters that are likely to be found amongst the leaders of a professional practice. Arguably, an effective leadership team will have all four characters, creating a great dynamic through which the organisation can grow and prosper.

Although our model is intended to be used on leadership in professional practices, you may also choose to apply it to the various school committees, charity boards and fund raising events you get involved with. So too, we think this framework will apply to start-up enterprises.

You be the judge about the model’s insights and in particular, how it helps to ascertain attributes which currently may be lacking in your organisation. Keep an eye out for characters that are likely present in organisations you are a part of. You may even recognise yourself!

We’ve used the humble T Shirt to symbolise the style and contribution of each character.  You’ll often see corporate T Shirts on display when organisations are on the rise but who is the instigator of this garment and who is the most willing to be seen wearing it? Indeed, what does everyone do with their T Shirts as a group disbands? And how do their respective roles evolve if the organisation succeeds in a big way?


The True Believer



Strengths Setting out a vision; enlisting others; resourcing; motivating; enthusiasm.
Motivation The captivating cause.
Without having one of these on your team You are likely to be a bland, “me too organisation”. The team will lack inspiration and the external marketing message will struggle to stand out from the crowd.
At the beginning The “True Believer” who sees the opportunity, then creates this into The Grand Mission. Enthusiastically researches and reports back to interested others. Enlists others to create critical mass.
On the rise Infects others with enthusiasm; enlists and educates them.
The fanatic who is first to arrive; puts in the hours and is full of great ideas.
Designs the T Shirt.
Testing times Can be quite challenged. May not have foreseen the difficulties or contemplated legitimate alternative points of view.
May not have all the necessary glue to keep things together.
Becomes anxious if the team starts to unravel and/or clients start to leave.
When/if it’s over Still a believer in the original cause.
May still be seen in the T Shirt or rallying others for Round II.
Alternatively, when/if it succeeds big time Becomes less hands-on but continues to influence the strategic direction. Remains an inspiration to new inductees, clients and strategic partners. Becomes a luminary whose opinions are sought by others associated with the industry/field of endeavour. Also likely to become more broadly influential, particularly where motivated by a philanthropic cause.


The Entrepreneur   



Strengths Strategy; Opening doors; Developing opportunities.
Brings a commercial edge to the organisation and fosters business-like thinking in others.
Motivation Thrill of the chase; drawn to the possibilities.
At the beginning Sees broader application/markets; Connects dots that no one else sees.
Breezes in and out before truly coming on board
Assesses other perspectives e.g. how to leverage the situation for own means.
Can be mistaken for a True Believer at the time.
Without having one of these on your team Will miss out on the quantum leaps that come from identifying, then taking, entrepreneurial opportunities.
On the rise Stunning contributions which amaze others and propel the movement forward.
May occasionally wear the T Shirt but prefers to be a non-conformist.
Testing times Less prominent. May propose radical changes in direction.
Limitations of their commitments and/or contributions painfully exposed.
Likely to be cultivating other opportunities on the side.
When/if it’s over Will be seen in hindsight to have been less invested than others in the actual cause. Teflon coated. Able to rationalise what happened and own role in proceedings. Others may be disappointed but likely was never in it for the long term. T Shirt long since discarded and will have moved onto the next Big Thing.


The Intellectual  



Strengths Intellectual contribution; independent endeavour.
Motivation Being part of something bigger, perhaps after long periods of solo activity
Without having one of these on your team Your underlying service will lack the substance and points of difference to back up the marketing message and it will be more difficult to sustain clients’ interest over the long term.
At the beginning Quiet contributor; resourceful.
Volunteers own resources for the greater good.
Happy enough to wear the T Shirt.
On the rise Relishes being part of a bigger enterprise and being appreciated.
Voluntarily goes into harm’s way but carries the limelight awkwardly.
Testing times Thrust into danger/the spotlight/blame. Becomes cannon fodder. Stressed.
When/if it’s over Determinedly goes back to being solo and becoming self sufficient again.
Conducts T Shirt burning ceremony.
Alternatively, when/if it succeeds big time Will progressively withdraw from the limelight but continue to contribute if sufficiently inspired to do so. There may be less of the biggest and brightest ideas than previously contributed, with more emphasis on fine tuning and curating the existing IP. Alternatively, may find a new lease of life in collaborating with others, which will serve to further expand the intellectual capital and reach of the organisation.


The Responsible One 



Strengths Organisation; making things happen behind the scenes; communication.
Motivation Can see the holes/risks/shortcomings.
Can’t sit by and watch disaster occur.
Without having one of these on your team The organisation will lurch from one set of deadlines and crises to another. Team members will become frazzled and burnt out because no one has anticipated otherwise predictable events and requirements.
At the beginning Likely to be the slowest to commit.
Naturally cautious, may still have misgivings about the chosen path.
Ensures the T Shirts get delivered on time.
On the rise Will come good with organisation.
May assist with obtaining vital funding.
Testing times Emerges from the shadows and makes a positive contribution, all the while thinking that the mission got ahead of itself.
When/if it’s over Left to sift through the aftermath.
Organises payment for the big order of T Shirts that couldn’t be cancelled in time.
Alternatively, when/if it succeeds big time Will have fewer concerns but nevertheless is still vigilant because memories of the testing times remain. Will appreciate better resources, which help to have the behind the scenes functions running like clockwork. Focused heavily on leaving a legacy – having robust systems in place and successors trained up.


The Workers 



For completeness, we’ve included Workers who, whilst not part of the leadership team are  an integral part of the broader organisation.
Nothing would actually happen without their contribution!

Strengths Willing follower. Loyal supporter.
Motivation Mixture of mercenary and true believer.
Without having one of these on your team Nothing will actually get done J.
At the beginning Comes on board as prototypes turn into mainstream operations.
Operates under instruction. Tolerates gaps in the systems.
On the rise Turns up, helps to get the show on the road.
Expects a free T Shirt, preferably non-iron.
Testing times “I can only do my best”
Does so without complaint unless pushed beyond frustration, in which case will deliver home truths, particularly about the Entrepreneur.
When/if it’s over No blame attached.
Uses T Shirt to wash the car.
Alternatively, when/if it succeeds big time Enjoys the respect and status that goes with being a founding team member. Expects the long service leave and other benefits that go with longevity as their due.
Will appreciate ceremonial recognition of past service and accept gratuities with understated acknowledgement.
Naturally loyal tendencies would be reinforced by participating in influential committees and/or an equity participation arrangement.

How did you go? Is there someone to play each of these roles in your organisation or are there some obvious gaps? Indeed, what role(s) do you play and are you playing to your strengths?

If you have any residual doubts about this model, it might be interesting to set your team a project…. organising a T Shirt for everyone and then arranging a team photo shoot off the back of this. See who contributes to the project and then what everyone does with their T Shirt thereafter!



Scott Charlton is a director of Slipstream Coaching, a company dedicated to assisting financial practitioners achieve their full potential. A long term business coach to both accountants and financial planners, Scott is also the author of three books regarding professionals in practice. Scott can be contacted by phone 0409 870 330 or via email