I have been an observer of leadership and in leadership positions since I was 23 years old. Normally, I reference interesting material and comment. This one comes straight from the heart.
When I led a platoon of 50 on foreign soil, there were many things that can and did go wrong. Here’s one story that remains a lesson to this day. My commander called me up to the office near the end of the day – I was about to skip off to the gym and then to sample some fine local cuisine with a couple friends. I soon learned my workout would be delayed a bit as my commander ‘assertively’ informed me that one of my platoon’s vehicles (and there were many) had not been PMCS’d (Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services). I still can’t figure out how he found out, because he seemed to have an allergy to getting out amongst the troops on our ‘site.’
I was a young, highly ambitious lieutenant that didn’t have a clue how this whole leadership thing worked. So, panicking, I dialed up the NCO responsible for the vehicle in question and ordered him to get down to the site and PMCS this vehicle. Afterwards, my right hand man, known as a ‘platoon sergeant’ in Army speak, called me aside and kindly asked me to consult him before running off and calling people back to work unless it was an emergency. There are a lot of false emergencies in the Army and if you respond to each the same, you’ll never stop running, but you’ll get very little done. Well done, right hand man. Lesson learned.
People will often try to get us to panic and move quickly into action. Often, it will be counterproductive, but some people never get beyond it, and accept this state as the way things are. That’s where leadership comes in.
The weak leader is quick to blame and allows others to determine their agenda. The strong leader resists the urge to fire off a hasty email and thinks about the effect on the recipient over the long term.
The strong leader does not second guess, as she is confident enough to defend her people. She builds confidence and trust in those around her…and they will imitate her without being told if the trust is there. The culture is devoid of fear.
The strong leader encourages others to think about what is right or wrong for themselves, realizing that there is no handbook.
The strong leader thinks about the atmosphere – is there positive energy or negative? If negative, what is causing it and how does he solve the situation? The strong leader puts a quick end to email tigers and encourages open, honest discussion. The strong leader understands that people are mostly conscientious, have reasons for the decisions they make, and none of them will be perfect.
I’m sure there’s a lot I left out, but it’s getting late and I’ve got to get this soap box back to my neighbor.