We have all heard the saying, “I went to a meeting to discuss a meeting.” Meetings can be very useful and a huge waste of time if managed improperly. They are either too long, too short, or do not solve the problem or issue that the meeting was trying to solve in the first place. Leaders at all levels will have the opportunity to conduct meetings of their own and, if they’re not careful, could repeat the cycle of doom for the next generation.
Every movie has a hero. Luke Skywalker. Harry Potter. Indiana Jones. Even Austin Powers is a hero. The hero is the heart of the movie, the person or thing on which the movie focuses to tell the story. Movies take these heroes on journeys that follow a common path. The hero encounters a problem he can’t solve, a villain he can’t overcome. Then a guide appears to help the hero become the person who can rise to the challenge. Yoda is a guide, so is Gandalf. Then just when you think all hope is lost, the hero uses the guide’s teachings to win the day and defeat the villain.
U.S. Army Soldiers with 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, provide support by fire during a multinational training event for exercise Puma 2 with Battle Group Poland at Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland on June 14, 2018 as part of Saber Strike 18. This year’s exercise, which runs from June 3-15, tests allies and partners from 19 countries on their ability work together to deter aggression in the region and improve each unit’s ability to perform their designated mission. (U.S. Army photo
by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III /22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Despite the breadth of the Army’s leader development journey, leaders often serve for years without learning those intangible skills we all recognize in great leaders. What classroom can teach a leader to “understand context” or “communicate appropriately” or “inspire the best in people?” The leader talents I describe here are among those qualities. They’re nuanced and underrepresented during formal and informal leader development training.
Marine Corps School of Infantry East students detonate an explosive charge during a breaching exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 18, 2018. Marine Corps photo
by Lance Cpl. Ginnie Lee.
What are the most impactful things you do everyday as a leader? What can you do for your team that no one else can? What consistent effect must you have in your organization to create the culture you seek? These are challenging questions, but ones that leaders must answer to achieve their purpose for their teams.
I originally started this post by exploring how easy it is for daily distractions, those Urgent/Important shiny objects, to draw leaders into the weeds of busywork. But if you are a leader, you already know what that feels like. You start the day with good intentions, get distracted by the next big crisis, then pick your head up at 1800 having bounced from problem to problem. Problem solving, however, is not the leader’s most important role.
Instead, the leader’s principal responsibility is to define the landscape for the organization, chart the course it will travel, tend to followers’ needs, and many other “big picture” responsibilities that no one else is qualified to execute. Other key leader tasks include providing vision, shaping culture, developing leaders, fighting for organizational maneuver space, identifying risk, pursuing opportunity, and so on.
It’s a worthwhile exercise to determine the few things that leaders should do everyday to achieve the desired leadership effect. I’d like to take a moment to share mine with you.
What is this a picture of?
“Well that’s easy. It’s a brick wall.”
It’s a paper wall.
Brick walls are unmovable obstacles, roadblocks that prevent progress, hindrances to achieving an endstate. They represent phrases like “It’s too hard,” “We can’t do that,” and “That’s never been done before.” Brick walls halt effort.
Paper walls, however, are flimsy, easy to break through.
I had a lesson hit me the other day on a run. It was a damp, chilly morning, the kind that leaves you raspy and congested during a workout. And as I ran past the four mile mark, I decided to blow a snot rocket to free a little sinus space.
As I let it fly, I noticed a pedestrian strolling on the sidewalk to my left. He was wearing a tie and blue blazer on his walk to work. And he had an unmistakable expression of dissatisfaction, maybe even disgust, at the nostril-clearing activity I had engaged in. He thought my snot rocket was gross.
Ok, he was at least 15 feet away and not in my blast area, so I know I didn’t hit him with it. Clearly, though, he did not approve of what he saw and I can only conclude it’s because he had forgotten, or has never known, what snot rockets are for.
Which brings me to my point…
Under certain circumstances, profanity provides relief denied even to prayer.” Mark Twain summarizes the crux of the leader dilemma I found myself in while deployed to Iraq: when is it acceptable to compromise important organizational values to lessen the hardship of an extreme operating environment? The issue arose at the crossroads of a continuous workday in a harsh environment, a new leader assuming responsibility, and the escaping element that music provides.
Army Pfc. Matthew Wilson arrives at a tactical assembly area to relieve personnel and resupply ammunition during a mission supporting the Iraqi army’s 9th Division near Al Tarab, Iraq, March 18, 2017. Army photo
by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull
In these waning moments of 2017, take a moment to consider a number…67,108. You’ve never before had to ponder 67,108, yet it has significance in your life. In fact, it’s existence has universal meaning to all of us and reveals an important lesson if we pause to reflect on it.