So you’ve been leading your organization for a year or two, maybe more, and now it’s time to turn over your pride and joy to another leader. You’ve given it everything you’ve got, as you poured your heart and soul into this organization striving to lead your team to new heights. Don’t worry, life will continue for your organization and the team you had the honor to serve with. I learned a long time ago there are many capable leaders, many better than you, and they will do just fine without you. … Read the rest
“Self-Reflection is the school of wisdom.”
As the year 2016 just ended, and we engage our planning and thinking towards the new year, many leaders are being reflective to determine if they accomplished their goals and objectives for the year. I always enjoyed this time of year when I was actively leading as it allowed me to relax and to look backwards across my previous year, experiences, and most-importantly, my professional relationships.
There is great value in being reflective about your leadership; looking backwards can really help you going forward. Sadly, in our hustle-bustle 21st century world, and more specifically in our dynamic and challenging leadership roles, there is a scarcity of time for this.… 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
“A man has integrity if his interest in the good of the service is at all times greater than his personal pride, and when he holds himself to the same line of duty when unobserved as he would follow if his superiors were present”
– General S.L.A. Marshall
It was very dark and cold on the flightline at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base where teams of Airmen and a Kuwaiti contractor were working furiously in the desert night to repair a critical fuel line prior to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The fuel line had been damaged in the 1991 war, and we were racing the calendar to get fuel to the airplanes who would launch the opening of the liberation of Iraq.… Read the rest
Dear General McClellan, if you’re not going to use the army, may I borrow it for a while?
~ Abraham Lincoln
The squadron was broken and the commander was the reason. He empowered no one, made all the decisions himself, and insisted on controlling even the most minute details in everything we did. By any measure, the commander was what we call a “single point of failure.”
The result of this sort of leadership was predictable: people simply refused to take responsibility for anything. Knowing he would likely countermand their orders–or worse, berate them for making a decision in the first place–the commander’s direct reports pushed all their decisions to him.… 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
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
After a short, violent air-to-air combat engagement, the good guys wind-up flying back towards their base. Did they shoot down all of the enemy fighters? Are there other enemy fighters lurking behind them still undetected? Rather than turn around immediately and possibly run headlong into an ambush, the flight lead elects to fly away from the enemy while taking a tactical pause to gather more information about enemy numbers and locations and develop a plan. The same concept applies to leadership.… Read the rest
“In any moment of decisions, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
As a leader, you’re generally working with two types of decisions: immediate or crisis action and everything else. To be both timely and effective in what you decide requires forethought and practice. There isn’t an effective leader operating in any organization who hasn’t invested some time to reflect on how they will make decisions.
In this article I’m going to unpack for you five tips you can begin mastering today to help you with the art of timely decision making.… Read the rest
As a freshman engineering student, I remember vividly the day my professor announced we needed to know the answer before we performed the calculations. What in blazes does he mean? I thought to myself. Then he explained: if we don’t have an idea of what the answer should be when we start calculating, we’ll have no idea if we’ve gotten a reasonable answer at all. You know the adage: garbage in, garbage out. It’s a skill engineers have passed on to one another for centuries–does the answer I calculated make sense?… Read the rest
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Recently, my sweetie and I were out at Creve Coeur Lake in St. Louis County, Missouri.
There’s a paved path almost 4 miles long circling the lake and on any given day people are either walking, running, biking or blading on the path. At overlapping times, a large group of geese cross multiple sections of the same path, making their way between an adjacent meadow where they chill out, and the lake where they swim and fish. Occasionally – okay, regularly – they inconveniently leave droppings right in the middle of the path.… Read the rest
“When in command: command.” – Admiral Chester Nimitz
If being a leader means anything, it means taking charge and executing the responsibility others gave you.
For leadership to be authentic, we have to make decisions and take risks. The reason we’re hired into a position of leadership is to do just that; and if we’re too timid to use the authority our boss gives us then we’re not doing our jobs. In the military as in many professions, we strive to solve problems at the lowest level. “Delegating up” to the senior leaders in any organization is a sure-fire way to create organizational paralysis, but the responsibility to ensure decisions get made at the appropriate level fall on senior and junior leaders alike.… Read the rest
“It won’t be an easy journey. It’ll be long, and arduous. But I promise you one thing: on the memory of those lying here before you, we shall find it, and Earth shall become our new home.
So say we all!”
Commander Bill Adama
Studying fictional leaders is sometimes as profitable as studying actual ones. For example, Commander William Adama (Edward James Olmos) in the SyFy TV series Battlestar Galactica is a great character study in leadership during crisis. I’m a big BSG fan, and consider it one of the best sci-fi TV series ever made. The quote above is from the end of the pilot, after the Cylons have destroyed the entire human race except for 50,000 survivors.… Read the rest
The cold hard reality of being a leader is we all have either a physical or organizational shelf-life. This realization, no matter how difficult or painful to grasp, need not be a fatalistic view of your future, but instead the inspiration behind the desire to find the next-generation leader, capable and prepared to spring-board to organizational success from your mentorship and guiding hand. To most, there is natural trepidation that comes with the thought of giving up the reigns of an organization, especially one created from one’s own blood sweat and tears and founded by a personal steadfast vision.… Read the rest
In military parlance, a Common Operating Picture (or “COP”) is a single presentation of the battlespace to a wide and distributed audience. The purpose is to provide common understanding and situational awareness for all involved. I’ve adapted this idea to graphically display the “battlespace” a leader has to understand so the team can achieve success. Leaders must harmonize the needs of their organization, their task, and individual team members to prevail. It’s a complex and people-focused job. If a leader can find the sweet spot in the “Leadership COP”, then they’re truly leading teams to high performance.… Read the rest
I remember as a child growing up, each weekend my family and I would listen to the radio as we drove down Route 301 to my grandparent’s home in Virginia. Every week, we would listen to American Top 40 Countdown with Casey Kasum. After he announced the #1 song in the land, he would faithfully sign off by saying, “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars!”… Read the rest