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
When things go wrong in your command, start wading for the reason in increasing larger concentric circles around your own desk. – General Bruce D. Clark
Standing on the platform in front of troops and family for the fourth time to take command, this time of a Mission Support Group, I was following a popular and successful commander. I’d be leading a very talented unit of 2,600 Airmen, civil service personnel, and contractors. They had a tremendous reputation for excellence.
In the previous three months, I’d prepared as best I could and now it was “go” time. Under the big Colorado sky on a stunningly beautiful summer day, thoughts about both the mission and people I was now responsible for leading circled my mind.… Read the rest
All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days . . .nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin. -John F. Kennedy
My first month as Mission Support Group Commander at the Air Force Academy was wonderful. Sure, there was work to do, but I spent the first few weeks touring the campus and meeting many of the 2,600 people who I led. There were plenty of awards to hand out, challenge coins to deliver, and interesting people to meet. When I was on horseback with the Academy Stablemaster touring the South Training Area, I thought to myself, this is the best command I’ve ever had!… Read the rest
Leadership to me means duty, honor, country. It means character, and it means listening from time to time. -George W. Bush
This month, I continue my series on successful leadership transition. If you missed the first part, you can go back and read it here. When we accept a leadership position we accept two things: (1) stewardship of the people and organization we’re leading, and (2) the understanding that we’ll be replaced some day. Regardless of the reason we may be handing off the reins to a successor–good or bad–how we manage that transition says a great deal about us as people and leaders.… Read the rest
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
“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”
Benjamin Franklin said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes”. I offer a third constant, and that is change. Either within your organization or within yourself, what you think is constant is always in transition. As Isaac Asimov mentioned in the title quote, the transition from one state to another can be difficult. If it were easy, we would not need leaders!
Leaders make their money charting a course through an ever-changing set of conditions. Just like a change in state for matter from solid to liquid to gas, each transition takes energy.… Read the rest
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
How do you listen as a leader? Have you ever really spent much time as a leader thinking about how you listen? A huge part of your success is determined by how you listen. There is the old adage that you have two ears and one mouth and should use them proportionally. The challenge with that adage for most of us is awareness; we may not spend much time observing how we listen. Some things to think about when it comes to how you listen:
Listening and hearing are two different things:
Hearing is a biological phenomenon that occurs in the body whereby sound waves register and vibrate in our ears “producing” a sound that we “hear.”… Read the rest
“A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue.
That’s why there are so few good conversations:
due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.”
At its core, leadership is about conversations. As a leader, the quality of the conversations that you have with your team, and those in your business circle, determines your outcome as a leader. If you have effective conversations, both parties involved feel heard, and both parties have their needs understood and met. Conversely, if the conversation is not effective, then the results are less than expected or desired all around. As a leader you have more influence than you may realize on how to craft effective conversations.… Read the rest
“We are shaped by practices and shape ourselves through practices.”
What are you practicing as a leader? Leadership, like any endeavor is a skill that can be learned and honed through practice. Just scan any online bookseller and you will find thousands of books on leadership. Most are about how leaders act: i.e. they act with integrity; they create an atmosphere of trust. Few are the books are written about how leaders should be, and what to practice as a leader. In our continuing exploration of, What does it mean to be a leader? we want to first explore the concept of the practice of leadership.… Read the rest
“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”
I love reading all of the great blogs here on generalleadership.com. It is like having your own staff of great military leaders to learn from. Just recently, blogs on 6 Foundations of Followership and From Technical Expert to Successful Leader (both great reads) have been published. Have you ever wondered as a reader, how can I do that? How can I act with integrity and seek positive feedback? Can I successfully make the transition from a technical expert to a successful leader when I am operating from a mood of fear or lack belief in myself?… Read the rest
This is a story about the transition from Technical Expert to Successful Leader. Following a one-year tour in Afghanistan, I was reassigned to an Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar facility. Not just any ATC facility, but one of the larger and busier ones—the 2nd busiest joint-use airfield in the Air Force.
The 15-position facility is manned by two 40-person teams, responsible for the safe and expeditious movement of 180,000 annual aircraft operations across 4,600 square miles and six airports. Additionally these teams provide ATC support to the world-class European North Atlantic Treaty Organization Joint-Jet Pilot Training Program, which produces aviators for the NATO Alliance.… Read the rest
To be a great leader doesn’t mean one has to take the flag and charge into cannon fire or make a drastic change in the organization. Those leaders do tend to get all the fame, but the ones that can make a real difference in peoples’ lives are the ones who constantly set a good example, reward positive performance and steer their team to success. The Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon over time; the constant gradual pressure produced breath-taking results. Similarly, leaders can make a large impact with slow, steady inputs to their organization or people.… Read the rest