Brothers and Sisters:
Unless you are living under a rock, you know what is going on with the COVID-19 pandemic and the violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death. I’m not going to focus on those issues, instead I’m going to focus on something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, leadership.
What are the qualities that make us want to follow someone by choice rather than by force? I’ve never been in the military but, most of the people I know who have been speak about their various superiors the same way as those who did not serve. In fact, if you did not know they were referring to their military time, it’s easy for someone like myself to replace the drill instructor with a boss I’ve had at various times of my life.
In the book The Few and The Proud, Larry Smith interviews Marine drill instructors from WWII through Iraq and, in their own words, gives insight into this question. The instructors all talk about how in the first few weeks the purpose of the drills is to remove individuality and then teach the recruits to work together as a team. The tool most often used is keeping the recruit off balance and guessing what comes next.
Those who have never served, or have a strong sense of individuality, are extremely resistant when this is implemented in the corporate world. Most of us will eventually turn off and become deaf to the noise.
The other extreme is indecisiveness. Bosses who refuse or defer decision making until cornered can be infuriating to the point of rage. Some indecisiveness may come from fear of making a mistake or displeasing superiors. Again, turn off and tune out.
My experience tells me that the best leader is someone you work for not report to. It is the kind of person that gives you the tools you need to do your job, steps away, lets you do it and then guides you on how you can do it better.
So, what really makes a good leader? These instructors touch on those points as well.
Good leaders do not always have all the answers but, they ask the right questions of the right people to learn what they don’t know. They also look at a problem from a multitude of angles and realize that it is all right to take a little more time to obtain a complete view before moving forward. Over analysis may lead to paralysis but, knee-jerk reactions can be far more costly.
Good leaders step back and let their subordinates take the lead when that person knows more about a subject than they do.
Good leaders are not afraid to change course when the way forward is fraught with peril. They adjust the course to match conditions not force conditions to match their course.
Good leaders take responsibility when their decisions go wrong and again shift course to avoid additional damage.
Good leaders have a steady hand on the ship of state. They remain cool, confident, reassuring and maintain positivity without raising false hope.
Good leaders care more about those they are leading than themselves. Their own ego and self interest are put aside when considering the greater good of those who will be impacted by their decisions.
When the situation calls for leaders to make an unpopular decision, they research the options, take a course and articulate the reasons why this is the best course. They then monitor progress and make changes as needed.
The above list is not comprehensive, only my thoughts on the subject. If you’d like to add to the list or have your own thoughts on the subject, email me at the address below.
Until next month,
Work smart, work safe and slow down for safety.