The third Monday in that month we all hate to pronounce (is it Feb-roo-air-ee or Feb-yoo-air-ee?) is more than just another Federal Holiday when your mail won’t be delivered and the DMV won’t be open. Presidents‘ Day isn’t just a long weekend of consumerism. For over 200 years, leaders have filled the Office of the Presidency and, with it, wielded immense power and responsibility. History will judge what they did with their time in the Oval Office, but as President Washington said “Example, whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence”. This Presidents‘ Day, let’s take a look at what past American Presidents had to say about Leadership.
The U.S. Army is in transition after sixteen years of conflict. Previously, the nation leveraged its industrial base to support a decisive edge over the enemy. Material solutions are not enough to maintain the advantage in a future of strategic uncertainty and rapidly adapting peer and near-peer threats. Leadership – the “L” in the DOTMLPF-P construct – is perhaps the most critical asset to our nation. The U.S. Army will establish overmatch by investing into its most valued commodity, the leaders of its irreplaceable soldiers. Learning agility provides the necessary framework to support leader overmatch in the future of conflict.
Use Mission Orders – a tenant of Mission Command that we exercise almost daily. But, in garrison, we have become overly reliant on Microsoft Office to present our Operations Orders. The Maneuver Captains Career Course (MCCC) and the ARSOF CCC thrust you back into the analog world for developing and briefing your tactical orders. For those of us practiced in creating orders on Word or PowerPoint, this is a rude awakening. You pour over document protectors, overlays, 1:50000 maps, and map markers strewn across your desk as you try to remember how you ever did this without a keyboard and mouse. Having a system and a good briefing board will pay dividends not only in the schoolhouse, but also when you get back to the tactical force. Here is one way to make a great Briefing Board that remains applicable when you get to your unit.
In every competitive environment, organizations evolve to survive and thrive. Society, Markets, and Warfare are ever-changing and so must those who want to succeed in them. Changing systems is a fight in and of itself. But, what if the change required is deeper than spreadsheets and efficiency reports? What if the organization’s values and behaviors aren’t aligned? I used the word “fight” intentionally. Make no mistake, when change is values-based, you are fighting for the heart and soul of your organization. To create a values-centered change, leaders steer the individual to driving the organization, communicate a clear and collective vision, model and steward the change, and empower their team.
Changing Values Requires Clear and Shared Vision
Change is scary; organizations and people are naturally resistant to change. We defer to the sedentary status quo over the risk of growth. Last week, in Part I of our Leading Change Series, we discussed Kurt Lewin’s three steps for organizational change. (If you haven’t read Part I, it is available HERE) Organizations are living, breathing organisms that are comprised of people. A mechanical mindset, fixing a problem by simply uninstalling a piece and reinstalling an updated mechanism, won’t maximize growth. You can’t sustain an effective organization this way, because people are not widgets. Teams pose an agricultural paradigm, not a mechanical one.
Changes of Command often bring a new look to the organization.
Leaders and formations in the Army are always changing. With this change in people, comes a new look at the organization. It brings reinvention, breeding adaptability and innovation. Change is healthy, important, and necessary – but leading change also requires art. Dissatisfaction, contempt, and failure, are usually the drivers of change. But, that doesn’t mean everyone in the organization will view circumstances through that same lens. Change is disequilibrium caused by disconfirming information. Kurt Lewin’s Change Theory and John Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model, provide leaders a lens through which to view and understand what it takes to successfully lead change.
Maintaining the status quo is comfortable. Leading change requires getting down “in the mud” – are you up for the task?
The typical nature of Army instruction fails to properly address how to handle suicidal soldiers. Serving as a volunteer instructor at the Combat Medic (68W) sustainment course allowed me to develop an approach tackling the difficult subject of suicide in the military. This approach comes for my experiences working as the Deputy State Surgeon of the Nebraska Army National Guard and my experiences working directly with homeless and disabled veterans with the Nebraska Department of Labor. Effectively addressing suicide requires an understanding of the negative impacts of cognitive dissonance, the impact of disease/injury on suicidality, and the resources to assist suicidal soldiers.
The views in this post are of the author and do not reflect official policy of the United States Army or the U.S. Government. They are tips to leaders in understanding and assisting soldiers with suicidal ideations. They are not a replacement for medical or professional attention.
Your reputation is the convergence of your words, actions, character, competence, and the perception of others. As you progress up the leadership chain, your team will grow and the perception of you will no longer be a direct result of your interactions and behaviors alone. Your team will play an increased role in how people perceive you. The larger your organization, the more you have to delegate authority. With that delegation, you empower your team to represent you and your organization.
King John III Sobieski after the Battle of Vienne
You can seek wisdom or withstand the hardships required to gain it through experience. Learning from others, through study and observation, is certainly a less painful means of benefiting from life’s lessons. Inc. Magazine article, “5 Lessons Most People Learn Way Too Late in Life,” provided a worthwhile list, but why stop there?
The Triumph of Aemilius Paulus reminding us that all glory is fleeting and we are but mortal.
Ego prevents us from living that John Maxwell quote. But, what about learning from leaders with an enlarged ego? Is our leader development hopeless without good leadership? Case studies focusing on ‘what right looks like’ hold a monopoly on leader development and create a void. This vacuum is most felt by young leaders lacking role models for “what right looks like”. We are tricked into thinking we only learn from good leadership. Learning from, and working for, good leaders is enjoyable, energizing, and sustaining. But, those who are not as blessed with great leadership early in their career are not flapping in the wind. They too have an example from which they can learn.