Good leaders are always learning. But legacy only happens when good leaders also take the time to share those lessons with the profession. Lieutenant Colonel Scott Shaw is a great leader, and has selflessly compiled this substantial collection of tips, templates, warnings, and insights to help other leaders succeed in their own leadership opportunities, command or otherwise. He deserves much credit for authoring this incredibly helpful post, but (as he states) the Cottonbaler leaders and Soldiers deserve the real acclaim for creating the experience that led to it.
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?
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.
Have you ever had the Lieutenant Colonel who was the best squad leader in the battalion and made sure everyone knew it? Ever seen a team leader trying to lead a fire team from the rear during a live fire? Have you ever had majors worrying about whether soldiers should load ruck sacks or duffel bags into the belly of an aircraft?
The results aren’t always pretty. The organization suffers when leaders forget the level at which they’re supposed to lead. At each rank, officers and NCOs fit into the unit in different ways. Their expanding education and experience means that they should bring different talents to the organization. The unit depends on them for it.
This article is a framework for visualizing and describing the types of leaders a unit will typically see: Action Man, Planning Man, Concept Man, and Decision Man. No rank or role has greater value than the others, only different responsibilities and functions in the formation. If today’s military leader knows where he fits into the team and what role he plays, he’ll be a hero.
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.
There’s an old adage you’ve likely heard, “The Army is not about people, it is people.” Army leaders and soldiers pay attention to endstrength more than any other service because people are the power behind everything the Army does. And because people are so critical to the Army, leadership is the fundamental action that Army leaders must understand and master in the course of their career. Leadership provides soldiers and junior leaders the purpose, direction, and motivation to execute the tasks to fulfill the mission, large or small.
If the Army is people, the Army is also family…and I’d like to tell you about mine. My family is an Army family. We count at least twenty of us who have served and most of those are combat veterans of World War I, World War Two, the Cold War, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Since 2001, between two uncles, myself, and three cousins, our family has almost continually had at least one member deployed. This rich history of mostly Army service was impressed on us mainly by my grandfather, BG (retired) Jim Shelton.
The soldiers are assigned to Fort Sam Houston. U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Bethany L. Huff
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.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.
What does an Army Colonel do after he finishes killing it in brigade command? …Start a professional development blog, of course! Today, let me highlight a new blog that you’ll definitely want to make part of your professional development plan.
ProDev2Go just fired up last month, but is the continuation of a groundbreaking leader development approach by one of the most successful brigade commanders in the Army today.
While in command down at Fort Bliss, Colonel Ross Coffman sought a new way to connect his Troops with his leader development vision, something better than the usual death by PowerPoint. So, he got a Twitter account, then created a YouTube and podcast channel called Ready First. He and his Command Sergeant Major used this novel approach to communicate with the command, relay their leader development and tactical experience, and show that Army leaders are capable of getting out of their comfort zone to reach their people.
Rapid Fire Mentorship
Now, as a testament that the best leaders never stop looking for ways to have positive influence, Colonel Coffman dove head first into the blogging world and created ProDev2Go as a way to provide high quality leader development in short bursts. The concept is simple:
As a “Leader on the Go” we understand that you desire a succinct learning opportunity that provides a written glide path for success. This leader development site is a single paragraph of lessons learned that you can use in a practical role in your workplace, job, business, or employment. We are changing Leaders one Paragraph at a time!!!
Plugging into ProDev2Go is like being mentored by a brigade commander, something we all could benefit from. You’ll find insight on trust, mission command, leader development, warfighting doctrine, and many other useful topics.
Head on over there now and check it out!