Think about the unit you’re in or the team you’re on. Do you have the freedom to contribute your own ideas? Does the boss ask for your input in solving problems or does he simply tell you what to do? It’s safe to say that you want the freedom to add value. You want to feel like your contribution actually matters. You want a hand in solving the problem, not just in executing a solution. Such environments encourage creative thought and ultimately lead to better performance.
Why, then, do leaders flip so quickly to “transmit guidance” mode when the team faces a problem? Why do leaders start issuing solutions instead of asking for them? Why do leaders see challenges as opportunities to showcase their own intellect instead of develop the intellect of those they lead?
U.S. Marine Cpls. Armondo Cortez, left, and Estevan D. Hernandeza discuss their plan for dismantling the command operation center during the retrograde of Patrol Base Boldak in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, Aug. 15, 2014. Cortez, a data network specialist, and Hernandez, a telephone switchboard and personal computer intermediate repairer, are assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. Link
Leadership and love go hand in hand. Just as leadership has both direct and indirect influence over others, love behaves the same way. How you express this love is unique to how you interpret the relationship. The stern drill sergeant provides “tough love” to young recruits to turn them into Soldiers. The chaplain will provide words of encouragement to reveal a different perspective. We often see them on opposite ends of the leadership spectrum, but the drill sergeant and the chaplain share one key understanding. They both understand how to employ the five love languages based on their situation.
U.S. Marines fire an M240B medium machine gun during exercise Blue Chromite 15 on the Central Training Area in Okinawa, Japan, Nov. 2, 2014. Marines rode in assault amphibious vehicles in a ship-to-shore assault from the USS Germantown to Oura Wan Beach, and then advanced inland to the training area. Link to DoD photo
The best leaders don’t use anger as a leadership tool. Anger is not a mandatory component of leadership because there are countless examples of successful leaders who never get angry. Yet, we can think of many leaders whose anger has compromised their effectiveness. The question is: what does anger get you? And then at what cost?
Marine Corps Cpl. Benjamin Peagler yells out an order to his team while participating in a platoon assault drill as a part of Exercise Cold Response 16 on range U-3 in Frigard, Norway, Feb. 23, 2016. U.S. Marine Corps photo
by Cpl. Rebecca Floto.
Leadership is as diverse as the individuals who exercise it. We influence through distinct talents, shaped by experiences, personality traits, core values, and an endless list of other factors. Nonetheless, when we look back at the leaders we’ve encountered, it’s easy to identify behavior trends that point to a set of defining leadership styles. The aggressive risk taker. The deliberate planner. The encouraging coach. The intense micromanager.
Each profession has its own set of styles that generally lead to success. The military is no different. Here are three types of military leaders you’ll find that, for better or worse, produce results.
A Marine points in the direction of the next objective on a security patrol during an Integrated Training Exercise aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., July 19, 2015. Link
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.