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.
This post is not just for cadets. Newly commissioned Infantry Second Lieutenant Dylan DiIulio presents a sizable list of tips on fieldcraft, teamwork, and leadership that apply to any training event. New Soldiers should read this. Sergeants taking over a fire team should read it. Hikers and backpackers can draw some insight from his advice. Take a look and share it widely, especially with those heading to Advanced Camp this summer.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
“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.