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Vusi Thembekwayo 12 July 2016

Ever heard the expression, “teams build businesses, not people”? Well, this statement is true. It’s just not the full truth. The full truth is that teams do build businesses and leaders build people. So if you want to build a business, then build a formidable team. If you want to build a formidable team, then be a formidable leader.

Over the past two years, I have been working hard on re-engineering the business. I have pulled the team and our capital out non-core businesses, re-set the strategy to focus on work we are passionate about, lifted the goal & purpose of the team to focus on doing globally significant work and align the team members of the business with the values of the organisation. The trouble with this kind of hard slog is that it is behind the scenes and not sexy. It lacks the chic appeal of the customer facing stuff that we instinctively want to do when we build a business. It is not about fancy presentations, the innovation workshops, the financial modeling. It’s about getting the basics right.


Much of this thinking is the very basis of the business you are building as an entrepreneur. So what are the hallmarks of leaders that build great teams? I have been studying this for some time now in a quest to make myself a better leader.

My research has revealed to me that there are 4 characteristics of effective leaders that build teams.

  • Humble to new knowledge

Effective leaders know and are comfortable in the knowledge that they do not know everything. This may sound trivial but in the modern day when leaders are seen as messiahs, there is a tendency by followers to abdicate their responsibility of free thinking to the leader. The rate at which the world is generating new knowledge far supersedes the rate at which the human brain can absorb new knowledge. So even if you spent your entire life studying everything there was to know about your industry and subject matter, you would never come to a point where you know everything.

Leaders discern that you are capable as the least capable person in your team. Be humble.

  • Stubborn to defeat

Part of the journey of entrepreneurship is the hard fact that often things don’t go our way. In fact, I would argue that we lose more than we win. It’s just that our quantum of wins is greater than our quantum of losses. So we take small bets that often don’t pay off but when they do pay-off, it’s big.

Leaders understand that “things not going your way” is part of the chant of entrepreneurs. So we have to learn to be resilient and resolute in our pursuit of our goals. You have to be stubborn to defeat.

  • Clear elevating goal

People and teams are galvanised around a clear elevating goal. Not just a goal. It must be clear so that the  team is clear on what the end state is. It must also elevate them beyond their current reality. It must draw the team toward aspiring for it. It must pull them toward it with the gravitational force of a black hole.

Most entrepreneurs get caught in the everyday trap of sameness so much that they forget to not just run a business and manage people. They forget to lead.

If you want to build a business, build the team.

If you want to build a team, build the people.

If you want to build people, lead.



Global Business Speaker. CEO

  • Klaas Kabini

    You are on point Vusi. Thanks.

  • Bel Rocks

    Excellent! Thanks for sharing your experience.