Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leadership comes in all forms and from all sources

No matter what your personal opinions on the wars and/or your political affiliations or your thoughts on the armed forces, the following video was an enlightening view into how leadership can exist in a variety of forms. Although we have been reminded of the strategic nature of military leadership, and the dominance of autocratic hierarchies, it is not only encouraging but also amazing to see glimmers of true leadership in structured governance structures.

Take General Welsh in this video, addressing the USAFA (United States Air Force Academy), and note some of the nuances he brings to bear in his lecture. He starts out trying to acclimate to his audience but he lets them know throughout the lecture what his expectations are, quite vociferously. He finishes off, in traditional military bravado by dismissing the class, but before that, take note of some of what he shares:

- ".. politics will change, technology will change, the enemy will change ..", " .. the most sophisticated piece of technology is .." - He talks of the individual. Think of change management, and the fuss that goes over it, now if only we could simply talk about this transparently and say that business may be conducted in a different manner, but the human factor does not change. People are the key to successful changes, albeit in different capacities.

- He talks about his son John and how the development of a new set of goals may lead you to wild successes. An interesting approach to failure & change, provides for a new paradigm of dealing with continued growth, a rebirth if you will from the ashes to rise well above what could have been. Sometimes the toughest decisions lead to the best outcomes.

- One of the statements he makes in the video is, " .. My dad made a difference, so will u.", ".. these people make a difference, so will u, don't worry about that .." : A leader reaffirms the positive, by providing for his confidence in those who he leads, but at the same token, informs them of what his expectations are. Leaders have a tough time articulating, beyond the job description/posting, what the expectations are with any role; but to do so in a fashion that clearly states it and provides for confidence in those he leads by knowing that they will achieve it, presents an interesting twist to the traditional. Affirmation & accolades do not need to succeed an action, they can be preceded by the action, thereby allowing for a higher percentage of a positive outcome.

- The chat about Thomas and how he takes charge by asking if he can address the team, shows courage in a team member. If a member of the team is comfortable enough to ask for the reins, even for something small as addressing his/her issues, shows a comfort level the leader has. Leaders support the growth of his/her team and allows for constructive dialogue that will not exist with a top-down approach to management, neigh what some refer to as leadership.

- The identification of Matt having credibility, speaks not only of the team member, but also the leader in the team. Credibility needs to exist to have true leadership that is not dictated simply by hierarchical or political structures.

- "Attention to detail; is it important? You decide." - Mistakes can happen, being a perfectionist is not necessarily everyone's forte, but to pay attention to the details allows the leader to keep the goals in check. I have said previously that sometimes, leaders tend to look up so much worrying about the big picture, when they lose focus on the here and now. Sometimes, if one were to worry about fixing the smaller things, they would find that the larger ones would naturally work themselves out.

- Sometimes you need to make decisions when you can't ask for help and you need to provide for inspiration when people need it. Two thoughts that speak to the leadership's responsiveness to the pulse of the team that s/he leads.

- The story of Laurie reveals leadership qualities that are identified through self-reflection; "I never asked him" - Vulnerability, "I almost cost him his daughter" & "I almost cost her a family" - Accountability, "4 days on the job and the tech sergeant knew about her" - Recognition. This is a 4 star General and to hear him say this to an audience on video speaks to his credibility as a leader. Would a leader today be this accepting? Do we know of the Laurie's that exist in our direct/indirect circle of influence? Have we even allowed for an environment to exist where someone can approach us with this type of a story?

- Do not let people down - this remains his message as he closes the lecture and he drives this home as his key expectation. Have we ever evaluated if we have let our people down, would a leader be comfortable doing so?

One of the consistent themes in his presentation was the celebration of the people, not the job or the task. Sometimes the task or the job is what presents a mechanism for celebrating people, but this leads to an incentive based style of leadership. True leaders lead consistently & transparently, which includes the celebration of people, for more than just the task, the job or the tenure of their career.

"leadership is a gift, its given by those who follow, but you have to be worthy of it" - This is no longer a question of nature vs. nurture; it is a question of how leadership is not a top-down but a bottom-up phenomenon. Managers may continue to remain but Leaders are everlasting. My personal belief requires me to surround myself with leaders in their own right. These leaders enhance my leadership, and the collaborative path is what I believe is the true success to our mutual growth.

Without much further adieu, do enjoy (please note that there are some troubling war scenes in this video):

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