It’s a seldom discussed fact that Christopher Columbus nearly missed his chance to make the history books in his 1492 discovery of the “New World.” Had his ship sailed on yet one day longer without sighting land, they would have turned around and headed back to Spain on the 12th of October. The truth is, he had a slight followership problem to contend with—and his own deception nearly cost him historical immortality. Along the way, his crew had grown unruly and restless, which prompted him to start “cooking the books” and keeping a separate set of records: one for his eyes only and the other he shared with his crew.… Read the rest
A bad leader lacks talent and skill, a destructive leader lacks character.
Leadership can be destructive. I mean this in the sense that poor, weak, or harmful leaders exist and can do great and lasting damage, not only to the organization but most importantly, to the people.
Great leaders use meaningful connections, shared values and mutual understanding to bring people together. ~ Linda Fisher Thornton
Lately, I have been very focused on the rise in destructive leadership in the lives of those I intersect with. A leader’s responsibility is many-fold but destruction is typically not one of the verbs used.… Read the rest
“The single most important element of success in war is leadership.”
Gen David Goldfein, USAF
As a young officer our formal leadership training consisted largely of learning our military specialty and a few vague lessons about balancing “mission and people.” They were lessons born of, simultaneously, thousands of years of military tradition and 20th century industrial mass production. In fact, our leadership classes were called “management” classes–which brings me to my point. Twentieth Century management theory and practice has it’s place, but management is no substitute for leadership. We manage things and processes, but we lead people. In the modern military as in modern business, we require agility–and we achieve agility only through good leadership.… Read the rest
“If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.”
I am always on alert for positive and effective communication practices at work. After diligently observing the first few weeks of the 45th President’s administration, it seems like now is exactly the right time to talk about broken communications and their effect on the leadership outcomes of an administration, organization, team, or office.
A change in leadership is not a change in mission. -Military maxim
The focus of January is the transition of leadership in the White House, so it’s a good time to talk about how successful leaders transition. I believe we do leadership transition well in the military, so there’s some lessons there for others. Every two to three years, commanders swap out, so being able to make that transition smoothly while continuing the mission is crucial.
Always Teaching Others
A good transition begins with a good culture—and the military culture is a learning culture. Because we work in a dangerous business with a highly mobile workforce, we’re always teaching someone else to do our jobs, and we’re culturally primed to think about how to hand off our work to our successor.… Read the rest
“Good tactics can save even the worst strategy. Bad tactics will destroy even the best strategy.” -Gen George Patton
Planning for greatness is very important, but just like the surfer sitting in the lineup at some point you have to actually drop in and ride the waves. For leaders, this idea means we have to implement the plans we make. Perfect plans don’t accomplish anything–implementing them does!
That surfing maxim came home to me in the deserts of Kuwait of all places. January 2003 was cold and wet in Kuwait. We’d been planning for months and now it was “go” time.… Read the rest
“I don’t know whether this is the best of times or the worst of times, but I assure you it’s the only time you’ve got.” – Art Buchwald
Standing in front of the assembled group of more than 150 staff to tell them they were being reorganized–again–was a little daunting to say the least. Everyone was clearly nervous about the change, but the leadership team assured them we would seize this latest change as an opportunity. However, embracing the change and looking for opportunities to make that change work for us was key to turning a potential disaster into success. Using a three step process we turned the reorg into an opportunity to chart our own future.… Read the rest
“Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.”
We have all heard how important effective, constant, accurate, and informative communication is to the effectiveness of a leader. Followers are hungry for information and they want to hear what a leader has to say; they clearly recognize the value in hearing it from the “horse’s mouth.”
As time marches onward and we cycle through different communications climates in our country, our communications must adjust. I have expressed my effective communication message before on this blogsite.… Read the rest
The ballplayer who loses his head, who can’t keep his cool, is worse than no ballplayer at all.
It’s baseball season again, and so we begin the annual Rite of the Green Grass and White Lines. Each year, baseball coaches struggle to give clear direction to help their teams make good decisions on the field and follow through with good execution. It’s rare to see major leaguers allow a ball to hit the ground between them, but it’s bound to happen at any given Little League game. How many times have you heard, I thought you had it?! The teams that win, the ones who don’t let those fly balls hit the ground, are well-led, coached, and drilled.… Read the rest
Always do everything you ask of those you command.
– General George S. Patton
When I was an instructor at the Air Force’s Officer Training School, I noticed the uncanny way the groups of officer trainees we led became mirrors of their Flight Commander. It was a little scary, really. If the Flight Commander was cerebral, and quiet, competitive, gung-ho, or whatever: so were his or her trainees. During our Instructor Qualification Course the seasoned Flight Commanders warned us this would happen, but to see it in action was startling to me as a brand new instructor. It also impressed upon me the weight of my responsibility to set the example.… Read the rest
“People ask the difference between a leader and a boss … The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives.”
Many times when I am called in by an organization it is to “fix” an employee who is not meeting the expectations of the boss and the organization. The boss, looking for a solution, figures getting the employee a coach will get the problem off his or her plate and will somehow miraculously solve the problem. In the past, as an inexperienced coach, I would excitedly pursue the coaching, hoping to save the day.… Read the rest
Nothing is as strong as the heart of a volunteer.
There may be situations in military leadership where the leader must keep the team in the dark–but in 27 years service and commanding five units I’ve never found one. On the contrary, the question asked most often by military leaders and those they lead is, “Did you coordinate that?” You see, military operations are a team sport and our patience with people who act without considering the team is thin. We have to trust each other, and trust is built on mutual respect and transparency.
Military Teams Work In A Collective Environment
Keeping the team informed removes the leader as a single point of failure and takes advantage of the collective intelligence of the team.… Read the rest
“The choices you make on a daily basis affect what you will have, be, or do in the tomorrows of your life”
We hear it all the time…right? “It’s all about Attitude!” “If only so and so had a better attitude, they’d be unstoppable.” Well, as a recently transitioned Air Force Veteran, I’m here to tell you that your attitude is probably the single most important factor in determining the level of success you’ll achieve in whatever it is you choose to pursue, in a professional role and/or in your personal life.
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines attitude as “A ballet position similar to the arabesque in which the raised leg is bent at the knee.” Another Webster definition for attitude is “The position of an aircraft or spacecraft determined by the relationship between its axes and a reference datum (as the horizon or a particular star).” But those definitions are not the one I want to work from to illustrate my point. … Read the rest
“Gratitude is riches.
Complaint is poverty.”
We have all been there. Someone does not do something we asked him or her to do and we get fired up. We are the leader after all, shouldn’t our team or followers do what we asked? We are absolutely certain we made our wants perfectly clear – how could they foul this up?! Those who screwed up are the issue, and we now are warranted to spend time complaining about them to whomever we think should hear it. That’s it. Let’s get back at them because they are at fault. Does not really sound very leader-like now does it? … Read the rest
“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”
A recent IBM survey of more than 1,500 CEOs report that creativity is the single most important leadership competency of the 21st century. A similar Adobe Systems poll of five thousand people on three continents reports that 80 percent of people view unlocking creative potential as the most important means of fostering future economic growth. And a recent Harvard Business School study outlining the must-have competencies of successful leaders highlights how strategy alone is increasingly insufficient to sustain a company’s competitive edge in today’s rapidly changing world.… Read the rest