27 Questions to Identify Culture and Define Vision

I’ve had a lot of conversations lately about organizational culture and vision. [To me, vision is where the team is going and culture is the behavior, beliefs, and norms that get it there.] One point of dispute deals with when the new leader of an organization (say, an incoming commander) should begin shaping the culture and setting the vision.

Some feel that culture-setting is a ‘Day 1 activity’ that centers on the leader’s influence…“I’m the new leader and here’s how I want things to run.” Others feel it is haphazard and potentially disastrous to join a team and immediately set it off on a new course…“I need to understand the culture before I know what to change.”

Regardless of your personal preference, it’s tough to argue that leaders should ignore culture and vision. Even a leader who immediately drives vision and culture will have to assess whether or not the team is meeting the intent. Identifying and understanding culture, for all leaders, is a critical task.


Soldiers participate in a sunrise run during annual training at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 11, 2017. The soldiers are assigned to the Georgia National Guard’s 78th Troop Command, 110th Combat Services Support Battalion. Army National Guard photo by Capt. William Carraway

Meet the Extraordinary Leader

by Charles M. Herbek

The purpose of the article is to introduce you to the extraordinary leader. First, a definition. A description of the extraordinary leader must examine the two separate parts of the term. Extraordinary: very unusual or remarkable. Leader: a person who has commanding authority or influence.

If we combine the two definitions, we have “a remarkable person who has commanding authority or influence.” But it doesn’t tell us what this leader does, how we can recognize one, or what we should aspire to become, if that is our intent. For this we must look at what this extraordinary leader does, for it is in that behavior, the outward actions recognizable by all, that we find the foundational aspects of the extraordinary leader.


Air Force Capt. Daniel Stancin applies face paint during survival, evasion, resistance and escape training at Yokota Air Base, Japan, April 21, 2016. Stancin is a navigator assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Delano Scott.

Leadership In Action – Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

by David Weart

Bayonets, Forward!  With this command Union Army Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain ordered the 20th Maine Regiment to execute a daring counterattack against the 15th Alabama Regiment of the Confederate Army on July 2nd 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg. At the extreme left flank of the Union Army, the 20th Maine fought off repeated assaults for the past several hours against the determined Confederate Soldiers.

Outnumbered and low on ammunition, Chamberlain’s bold decision and courageous leadership led his men of Maine down the slopes of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and stopped the Confederate assault against the Union Army’s left flank.

This iconic scene immortalized in Jeff Shaara’s Killer Angels, the movie Gettysburg, and Army Doctrine publications as the epitome of leadership in action, is just a snapshot in the portfolio of Chamberlain’s remarkable and unparalleled career.


Brigadier Joshua L. Chamberlain. Link to photo.

Success Depends on a Proactive Mindset

by Alan Hastings

Recently, a West Point Cadet asked me what I, as a Troop Commander, expected from a Platoon Leader. I provided four traits that I believe define successful lieutenants: unquestionable integrity, an aggressively proactive attitude, a willingness to engage in open and candid communication, and a commitment to self-study.

I want to highlight the second trait, maintaining a proactive mindset, which in my mind separates mediocre and outstanding junior leaders. Being proactive, especially in the face of potential obstacles and failure, is a key determinant of one’s level of success.

Lieutenants share four common situations that can lead to failure:

  1. You don’t know how to accomplish a given task.
  2. You know how to accomplish a given task, but (you think that) you can’t.
  3. You know how to accomplish a given task, but choose not to.
  4. You know how to accomplish a given task, but make mistakes or errors that cause you to fail.

For each cause of failure, there is a proactive response that leads to success. Let’s explore each of the reasons for failure and corresponding reactive and proactive responses.


U.S. Army Capt. Chad Pilker (right) and a lieutenant from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Cavalry Regiment discuss strategy during a decisive action training environment exercise, Saber Junction 2012, at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Oct. 15, 2012.  U.S. Army photo by Specialist W. Ryan Livingston/Released.

The Power of Gratitude in a Leader’s Life

by Adam Lackey

I woke up at 3am on the morning of my 38th birthday with a persistent muse (which was preceded by a persistent co-sleeping 3 year old and a hungry 3 week old wanting second breakfast).

I want to consider a concept that has been in much of my reading, thought, and discussion lately.  It is a concept that has spiritual connotations for some, but whose value in application for the military leader is indispensable.

Gratitude.  I believe it’s time we place a higher premium on gratefulness as a leadership trait.


U.S. Army Maj. Paul Bollenbacher shakes hands with a Si Av village resident from the Bawka district in Farah province, Afghanistan, June 12, 2010. U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rylan K. Albright. Link to photo.

A Powerful Way to Discover Your Bias

“Whoa, whoa!…What bias?!?! I don’t have any biases!” Was that your response to the title of this post? Well, I had the same thought before I took this test and now I think differently.

Here is a fascinating resource that will help you discover what you think about the world on levels beneath conscious thought. It reveals how your past experiences, upbringing, or even your morning scan of the news can skew your beliefs about race, gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexuality, and weight.

Why wouldn’t you want to know, especially as a leader, if an unhealthy bias is getting in the way of your leadership?


Soldiers from Honor Guard Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Special Forces Command stand in formation prior to the start of a wreath laying ceremony, Oct. 18, at the John F. Kennedy gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery, Va.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

12 Things Good Bosses Believe (#12)

 Because I wield power over others,
I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realizing it.

Robert Sutton closes out “12 Things Good Bosses Believe” by citing what I think is the most often overlooked (and potentially the most destructive) aspect of leadership on this list. It is the idea that the very position of influence blinds the leader from truly realizing how his actions impact subordinates.

When you think about it, there is nothing more elemental in human interaction – to understand how we affect other people – but this awareness is often hidden even from those who base their professions on influencing others.


Army Reserve Soldiers and competitors listen to a class on rifle marksmanship before the inaugural Army Reserve Small Arms Championship hosted at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, Sept. 22. Approximately 70 Soldiers, making up 14 teams, came from all over the country to compete. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

TED Video: “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”

I realized that I have been sorely remiss in not specifically recommending Simon Sinek’s talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” Sinek explains how great leaders bring out the best in followers by connecting them with “The Why” instead of just “The What.”

If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend taking 18 minutes this weekend to watch it. You will not be disappointed. It’s the best leadership talk on TED and the #3 overall most-watched TED video.

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