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?
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.
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?
Every year, new command teams spend thoughtful hours crafting the words that will precisely convey their version of unit success. This intent typically reaches the service members in the form of an organizational mission statement or “Unit Vision.” And if your experience is anything like mine, leader development takes center stage. When those command teams brief their vision to the unit, the slides inevitably include phrases like these:
“Developing leaders is our #1 priority.”
“Leader Development is in everything we do.”
“The heart of this unit is its leaders.”
“Good leadership is our most important asset.”
Sound about right?
But when was the last time you participated in a unit leader development event that was focused on the practice of leadership? Not doctrine, not staff processes, not command supply discipline…leadership! It’s probably been a while.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)
It’s been a while because collectively we have compartmentalized the study of leadership to the schoolhouse. We’ve also adopted the belief that training events fulfill the requirement to develop leaders. When “Leader Development is in everything we do,” going to the range is leader development; so is doing PT and inspecting vehicles. Leader development has evolved to encompass everything except the very activity its name implies – teaching our people how to be good leaders.
Allow me to explain why this has occurred and what you can do about it.
Think back on your recent interactions. If I asked you how many times you made destructive comments towards the people you work with, how would you answer? “Destructive? No way. I’m a nice person. And when I do give feedback, it’s never destructive.” What about if I asked you how many times you talked negatively about someone when he or she wasn’t present? “Well sure, but everyone does that. It’s part of our culture.”
The topic we are approaching here is a silent leadership killer. Who’s leadership, you ask? Yours, your boss’s, your subordinates’. Destructive comments slip into an organization, infect the culture, manifest as other problems, and kill the trust that leaders worked so hard to build.
Today, you’ll be guilty of making comments that can destroy your organization, and you likely don’t even know it.
Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is packed with useful insight. If you are a leader looking to improve the quality of your interactions and the influence you have on your team, his book is a must. #3 of “Twenty Habits That Hold You Back from the Top” is Passing Judgment.
Now, why would the effects of passing judgment concern a military leader whose granted authority clearly allows, almost encourages him to judge the quality of his organization and its members’ activities? Isn’t it monumentally important for leaders to scrutinize teams in training so that they are better prepared for war? And when in war, is there not an argument that there is no room for error, necessitating judgment at every turn?
The Military Times recently published an article discussing the usefulness of the 360 degree reviews in assessing leaders. This study (which was not included in the article) concluded that 360 degree reviews “probably should not be used as a part of the formal military evaluation and promotion process.” It cited “a long list of legal, cultural and practical concerns…(and that) Stakeholders were overwhelmingly against using the tool for evaluation.”
Given the integration and widespread use of performance feedback tools, this topic is clearly relevant. This year the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum asked its followers and readers to offer their opinion.
Here is my take.
Today, I’d like to highlight the work of military blogger Dale Wilson, the creator of Command Performance Leadership. Dale is a former Navy logistician and has two decades of experience in business management and leadership. He writes on a wide variety of leadership-related topics and is bringing a resurgence to his blog in 2015.
What I appreciate about Command Performance Leadership is that Dale takes great care to thoroughly develop his topics, providing multiple perspectives to consider, and cites other work to support his arguments. He balances the “no rules” nature of online blogging with academic legitimacy, which is refreshing.
My favorite example of this is Dale’s expanded look at Schofield’s Definition of Discipline, where he provides historical context and personal insight.
Here’s an excerpt:
The foundation of discipline is not accountability or punishment, but respect. A leader must establish trust and credibility, communicate effectively, employ empathy, intimately know their people’s capabilities, and move their people into positions to be most successful. Nobody should be the ‘bad guy’ when leading people. No leader should be a bad guy intentionally, or go out of their way to be one. If a leader is working to perfect his ‘bad guy’ image, he is dishonoring his responsibility as a leader, and is creating a hostile environment for his followers. If a leader has successfully become a ‘bad guy,’ shame on them. Their subordinates deserve better than that; and, so does the service they represent and the Command (organization) they are responsible for.[xi] Ultimately, a good leader will lead through respect instead of leading through fear. When you treat people right, word gets around.
And this post on toxic leadership tells how to avoid letting self-interested attitudes interfere with quality leadership:
Integrity of character is the foundation of a great leader. To use a metaphor, it is what you build your very being up from, if you so choose. The building blocks of leadership are built upon the value of integrity and trust. Each block represents the values, virtues and principles that will house your team. It will be built with duty, honor, courage, commitment, selfless service, respect, justice, judgment, dependability, initiative, decisiveness, tact, enthusiasm, bearing, unselfishness, knowledge, loyalty, and endurance. It will be a strong structure if you build with these traits properly and effectively. You need to make sure the leadership “structure” your team works in is built with these things. Within that strong structure, under the strong roof of your leadership, your team will be safe and secure.
Also check out his posts on Leadership Defined and Authoritarian Leadership vs. Democratic Leadership ~ The Officer Corps Explained.
You can find Dale actively developing his 3,000 Twitter followers at @5starleadership.
Question: Do you have a military blog that people need to check out? Leave a comment below!