When I was the Commanding Officer of a Navy flight test squadron, I drove home a simple but effective leadership philosophy that has framed my personal life. This philosophy drove effective results in our squadron and also impacted my marines, civilians, and sailors beyond my wildest dreams. Leadership is not only a well-written and studied subject. Practically, it is a critical element to business and military success. You are reading this because you want to be a better leader – because you are a student of leadership!
I do think all leaders should develop a leadership philosophy no matter how “big” or “important” a leader you are, but that is a topic for another blog post. My command philosophy had to be memorable and impacting (I am an Aggie and a Marine – it also had to be simple!). I chose I.C.E – Integrity, Commitment, and Excellence. Three leadership elements, when executed well, maximize our effectiveness as leaders.
Now, I know what you are thinking …”Integrity? Everyone knows that integrity is critical to leadership and frankly isn’t that engaging of a subject” or something to that effect. I mean, it’s just telling the truth right?! But let me challenge you to think of integrity differently. As leaders, if we view integrity only as truth-telling we have missed the boat! And if, as leaders we have to talk about being honest with our team, division, or company then we have bigger problems. When I speak of integrity I mean wholeness – as in the whole individual – examining ourselves as whole individuals and viewing our teammates, subordinates, direct-reports (however you refer to your teammates) as “whole” people. Like the “integrity of a ship,” who we are must be whole for us to be effective team members. More importantly, integrity is vital for us to be effective leaders.
“integrity is vital for us to be effective leaders”
As a leader, being whole can take many forms – knowing who you are, what makes you come alive (as Thurman spoke so eloquently of), being involved in our communities, pursuing hobbies, giving selflessly to others outside the work environment and not just being slaves at work – that is living w/integrity – living whole. The Corps taught me that an integral focus on the mission was necessary for us to succeed in defending our constitution and way of life. I tried to do that daily whether I was leading just myself that day or an entire squadron and I urge each of you to do that as well. Do you have a “wholeness” focus on your mission? Is ensuring that your people are “whole” a part of your daily focus? Is ensuring that you are whole a part of your focus? We need leaders who labor to become whole – to examine themselves – to ask, “what makes you come alive?” We do not need cheap imitations or short flings. What is it that you experience or do that makes you feel WHOLE? Our world needs people FULLY alive.
Pursue with a dogged passion, with an integral focus, to intensely labor towards whatever it is that makes you come alive. Make that your mission – be laser-like in your focus on that and the community you live in will be better, the people you lead will be better for it, your organization will too. If you don’t know what makes you come alive…then spend some time thinking about it – and I mean spend some quiet uninterrupted time – thinking about what stirs you inside. Ask someone to help you explore that – it’s necessary – we need you to do it. Live with INTEGRITY – be WHOLE – be FREE.