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
They call you lady luck,
But there is room for doubt,
At times you have a very un-lady-like way
Of running out.
– Frank Sinatra in “Luck be a Lady”
In his recent post on the influence of luck on a career, Army officer and editor of The Military Leader Drew Steadman offers a somewhat light-hearted perspective on chance and success. Why are some people so lucky while others seem to slog along professionally? Where do you draw the line between luck and talent? What are the limits to luck in a successful career? How do you create your own luck?
Luck can be a fickle creature. As Frank Sinatra sang in “Luck be a Lady,” it has a tendency to run out when you least expect it. Depend on luck too much, and you’ll find yourself on the hard-luck side of the professional craps table, staring down dice that never seem to roll your way. On the other hand, carefully cultivated luck can do much to keep your career on a winning trajectory.
Brevet Major General George Armstrong Custer, 1865. Photo on Wikipedia
Recently, Drew Steadman posted a thought-provoking piece on the large role luck plays in a military career. His four points are all worth pondering, but I find the last one, “Create an environment for luck,” the most compelling…or at least the item that came to my mind during our internal discussions on this topic.
Build for your team a feeling of oneness, of dependence on one another
and of strength to be derived by unity. – Vince Lombardi
Carnage like this followed the Battle of 73 Easting in 1991, where luck coupled with the lethality of E Troop, 2d ACR, commanded by then Captain HR McMaster. McMaster’s tactical success garnered strategic visibility that would follow him his entire career.
Take a look at your unit calendar. Scan the clutter of appointments, meetings, formations, training events, ceremonies, and administrative commitments. Do you see any events dedicated to improving the quality of your people’s leadership? If not…if leadership development isn’t a separate line of effort…then how are you developing leaders?
A U.S. Army Ranger from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, keeps his sight on a target with an M240L machine gun during a company live fire training at Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014. U.S. Army Photo
Illustration by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade. I like this photo because it’s a reminder that all military leadership boils down to supporting this Soldier on the ground.
I once had a senior rater observe that life for staff officers like the ones assembled before him consisted of 80 percent making the railroad run – that is, doing the standard and recurring activities common to military staffs around the world. The other 20 percent, he mused, was for pushing things forward: innovating, dreaming, adding one’s personal mark in new ways.
I think that for most staff officers this maxim is true. For some of the most fortunate among us, however, the ratio is reversed: 20 percent boilerplate activities, and 80 percent new and different. Whereas their 80/20 peers are more like “Conductors”, the 20/80 folks get to be “Artists.” Approached correctly, it is an exciting opportunity that can result in a highlight of one’s career.
from NATO Rapid Reaction Corps – Italy Exercise Eagle Action
, May 2005.
“I want to claw my way up to brigade staff!” No little kid ever grew up wanting to be the best at briefing slides, brewing coffee, or writing operations orders. There’s a reason war movies don’t portray the struggles of warriors whose meritorious planning performance led to the creation of the perfect brief. Slideology 101 isn’t a required course at West Point.
Time spent on staff, where officers spend the majority of their career, is thankless, laborious work that is too often viewed as a block check between command positions. Much of the Army’s educational emphasis is on success as the man in front of the formation, but the officer’s plight is that he will spend much more time rowing the ship than steering it.
U.S. Soldiers of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division provide information to the ground units from the tactical operation center while a Latvian soldier, right, observes during exercise Combined Resolve IV at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, May 17, 2015. U.S. Army photo
by Private First Class Courtney Hubbard.
When I read this leadership quote a few weeks ago, I kicked myself for not having found it sooner. (It’s the type of advice I’d put in my signature block…and I’m not even a “signature block philosophy” kind of emailer.) It is attributed to the immutably inspirational leader of the Allied coalition in World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. This insight is powerful because it captures the fundamental nature, the heart, of what it means to be a leader. And Eisenhower uses only 26 words to do it.
Senior military commanders of World War II. Link
[Seated L-R: Gens. William Simpson, George Patton, Carl Spaatz, Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Courtney Hodges, & Leonard Gerow
Standing L-R: Gens. Ralph Stearley, Hoyt Vandenberg, Walter Bedell Smith, Otto Weyland, & Richard Nugent.]
In a post from earlier this year, I shared some of the guidance I issued during my company command time nearly ten years ago. In How Do You Spot a Leader?, I suggested the notion that leaders naturally move faster than everyone else.
If you are a leader and you find yourself moving slowly throughout the day, you are probably not doing enough to help out the team. Most of the time, leaders dart from one event to the next, or are focusing to create a new product/presentation that will help the team. They are always looking to identify problems in the organization and tackle them quickly, so that the organization can become better or more effective.
Leaders create and disseminate energy throughout the organization to keep it moving in the right direction and responding appropriately to the environment. There is an inherent risk, however, for naturally driven leaders who move quickly towards success. Today, I want to talk about this risk.
Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, sprint to emplace an M240-B machine gun as they demonstrate crew drills to Afghan National Army soldiers prior to a foot patrol May 8, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.
U.S. Army photo
by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.