This Mindset Shift Changes Everything

What I love about leadership is that it is highly individualized. We may strive to display common-held principles for successful leadership…lead by example, mentor junior leaders, exhibit poise during stress. But the way we describe our leadership styles, the personality traits we employ, the perspectives we adopt, the anecdotes we use…they’re all different, shaped by unique experiences and beliefs. This individualization creates an endless reservoir of leadership insight from which to draw out of others and learn from.

This summer, a mentor of mine virtually introduced me to a successful Air Force Colonel living in the city I was traveling to. We linked up for a beer and not only did the conversation turn to leadership, but he delivered a dose of wisdom so fundamental that it instantly related to everything I do as a leader and revamped my approach to bringing out the best in organizations.

mindset

U.S. Army Spc. Rasjiem Holmes, of the Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, looks into the distance as he waits to return home from the field at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Danny D. Woo

“Two Matts and a Pat” – Recognizing the Value of Mentorship

by Nick Simontis

Earlier this week, I was perusing the recently released O6 promotion list and an analogy came to mind about our shrinking Army. I envisioned a WWI scene in which ranks of hopeful O5’s clambered out of the trenches only to be cut down by raking machine gun fire…the next wave of O5’s ready to take their place. A grizzly vision perhaps, but the decline in promotion numbers will continue as the Army draws down in the wake of fifteen years of war.

Since then, several thoughtful and humorous articles have been published describing the role of luck and timing in promotions.[1] As I read these articles considering my own prospects and what I’ve done personally and professionally to prepare myself for promotion consideration, my thoughts kept returning to the role and value of mentorship, personally and professionally, exemplified in three former bosses.

mentorship

Air Force Col. Rhett Champagne, left, commander, 821st Contingency Response Group, discusses an airfield assessment with Air Force Capt. William Jackson during Swift Response 16 at Hohenfels, Germany, June 16, 2016. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford.

Prevent Power from Corrupting Your Leadership

We are all familiar with the warning that “power corrupts.” And if you’re like me, when you hear the phrase the first type of corrupted power you think of is greed. The ruthless Gordon Gekko from Wall Street comes to mind. If you shift the phrase to the military frame of reference, you might think of generals breaking joint ethics regulations on TDY travel and contracting, or perhaps the senior leader with the moral lapse.

The commonality among them is a feeling of invincibility that either distorts judgment or severs behavior from prudent thought. When power is involved, we are all at risk.

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A U.S. soldier stands in formation during Exercise Rapid Trident’s opening ceremony in Yavoriv, Ukraine, Sept. 15, 2014. The soldier is assigned to U.S. Army Europe’s 173rd Airborne Brigade. Link to photo.

What Place Does Digital Learning Have in Our Army?

A Call for Input from The Military Leader

Today, I want to let you know about an exciting opportunity and ask for your help in preparing for it. On October 3rd, I’m honored to participate in a 4-person panel at the Association of the US Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting.

AUSA

The topic is “digital learning in the Army today” and I’ll be flanked by three fellow writers:  Nathan Finney of Strategy Bridge, Joe Byerly of From the Green Notebook, and military fiction writer Jessica Scott. During this panel, we will discuss the important role that digital media (online and social) is playing in the Army, as well as what it means for future learning.

In preparing for this panel, I would sincerely appreciate hearing what you have to say about digital learning in our Army. And by “digital learning” I mean developing yourself or your team through blogs, social media, online magazines, chat forums, etc. – not the official digital learning tools that the Army publishes.

Some framing questions would be:

Are you using online content to develop yourself or your team?
Do you use social media to complement your Army leadership?
Is digital media a credible forum to discuss professional topics?

I plan to (anonymously) cite your experience and examples as evidence of digital media’s impact on our profession. I am open to all input on the topic but have settled on two broad questions to start the discussion.

  1. In what ways are you using online content and social media to enhance your team’s professional development?
  2. How do you see digital learning affecting the Army profession in the years to come?

Please feel free to comment on this post’s comment section, on Facebook, Twitter, or at the following survey link:

Take Me to the Survey!

Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on digital learning in our Army. If you are interested in reading the latest official guidance regarding Army social media, click here. For the AUSA Annual Meeting site, click here.

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In Leadership, You Are a Consumer, a Producer…or Irrelevant

Today, I want to share a framework for thinking about personal development as a leader. It’s a “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” approach that shines the spotlight on the personal habits that grow leaders into a position of effectiveness. Here you go:

When it comes to personal leadership development,
you are a content consumer, a content producer…or irrelevant.

leadership

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Clarence Washington, Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul security forces squad leader, takes accountability after an indirect fire attack in Qalat City, Zabul Province, July 27, 2010. Photo by U.S. Air Force Sr. Airman Nathanael Callon.

10 Ways to Start a Conversation About Leadership

Vince Lombardi wisely quipped, “The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.” Success does not happen by accident…and neither does becoming a leader. The road to meaningful influence is marked by deliberate steps to acquire knowledge, gain experience, and engage in ways that specifically relate to leadership. Followers can do this on their own, but leaders have a tacit responsibility to grow other leaders and must find ways to further the leadership development of those around them.

leadership

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks to airmen following a field exercise at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Aug. 2, 2016. The airmen are assigned to the 39th Security Forces Squadron base defense operations center. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

11 Priceless Colin Powell Quotes

If you were a fly on the wall of my high school 20 years ago, you’d see me walking to class with a copy of Colin Powell’s My American Journey. And why Powell’s 600 page autobiography and not, for instance, a car magazine or the latest Pearl Jam album? Because I’m a leadership nerd, that’s why…and still am.

I already had my sights on a career in the military, but this book seized my attention. Powell recounts his memorable career from Vietnam Captain to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and in plain language delivers poignant leadership lessons relevant for every profession. It’s not an overstatement to say that it became a foundational resource for my leader development…my leadership bible.

Although I underlined text on nearly every page of My American Journey, here are the quotes that have had a lasting effect on my career and have shaped my own leadership journey.

powell

Why Do Toxic Leaders Keep Getting Promoted?

Becoming a successful leader should mean more than just getting the mission done. It should also mean taking care of Soldiers and families and making a difference in the lives of those we lead. We don’t talk about it often, but that’s what we intuitively feel. Followers desire leaders who guide the team to accomplish the mission while respecting and inspiring them.

And what’s the common theme among toxic leaders who continue to ascend the ranks? They get the mission done but leave a trail of destruction in their wake. Bosses routinely fail to identify toxic subordinate commanders, but peers and subordinates always feel the impact. Why does this happen? Why do senior raters look down at subordinate leaders and see mission accomplishment but not the negative interactions they use to make it happen?

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Arizona National Guard Soldiers from the 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade stand in formation on the field at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium, Dec. 7, 2014 in Tempe, Ariz. The formation, which was part of the Arizona National Guard Muster and Community Expo, was the first time in over a century Arizona Soldiers and Airmen assembled together in mass formation. Photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour.