Surrender – A tactical leadership option?

Surrender Kiss

I was recently thinking about what I consider to be the most misunderstood aspect of great leadership; in other words, what makes great leadership great? What immediately came to mind is not only misunderstood, but it also happens to be one of the most often overlooked elements of leadership. And it is one which also affords leaders the greatest opportunity for personal, professional, and enterprise growth. If you want to become a better leader in 2015, I suggest you become comfortable with a leadership practice that very few are – surrender.

Surrender – not for the faint of heart

You’ll rarely encounter the words leadership and surrender used together in complementary fashion. Society has labeled surrender as a sign of leadership weakness, when in fact, it can be among the greatest of leadership strengths. Let me be clear, I’m not encouraging giving in or giving up – I am suggesting you learn the ever so subtle art of letting go.

A leader simply operates at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much better than their ability to control. The purpose is not to shine the spotlight on yourself, but to unlock the potential of others so they can in turn shine the spotlight on countless more. Control is about power – not leadership. Surrender allows a leader to get out of their own way.

“The greatness of a mans power is the measure of his surrender.”

William Booth

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What American Sniper Reminded Me About Leadership

Drill Sergeant

I have yet to see American Sniper, we have been waiting for the crowds to die down, and have been busy with our children’s activities. But I have seen many of the long trailers (They make me tear up every time). I have read the book, and it has brought back memories of my time in the Army.

I was 18 when I joined the Army, and fresh out of high school. I was cocky and a know it all, and not very disciplined to say the least. The Army taught me many lessons, but not the least was teaching me what it took to lead. My Drill Sergeant rode me pretty hard because I made the mistake of not signing a wavier after the first say of basic. I thought by not signing the wavier they would just send me home.  And I could not have been more wrong.  Thus began my constant unwanted attention of my drill instructors. I signed the wavier after, let’s just say, an eventful evening.

After two weeks of enduring all they could throw at me, and becoming very humble in the process, our lead Drill Instructor made me platoon leader. He also handed me something I have kept with me my entire life. The Army’s 11 Principles of Leaders:

Principle #1 – Know Yourself and Seek Self Improvement – Develop a plan to keep your strengths and improve on your weaknesses.

Principle #2 – Be Technically Proficient – Not only do we know our duties and responsibilities, we know all those of our team members, and we look to our leaders and concern ourselves with learning their duties and responsibilities.

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Leadership Profile: Fightin’ Joe Dunford

General Joe Dunford

It would be so easy to make this leadership profile all about a great military man.  Many of you may not know him.  Some of you may not have even heard his name before.   His nickname is “Fightin’ Joe” Dunford.

Gen. Joe Dunford was the Commander, U.S. Forces, Afghanistan.  He is a Marine four-star general and was the leader of NATO’s coalition in Afghanistan.  He “is probably the most complete warrior-statesman wearing a uniform today,” says a former Marine commandant.

That is high praise indeed.  And, in fact, today, he is the 36th commandant of the Marine Corps.  Having recently taken command as the 35th commandant retired.

In a recent article with Fortune magazine, Dunford tells the interviewer what his first battalion commander told him as a young Marine.  His battalion commander told him that there are three rules to success. The first? Surround yourself with good people. “Over the years,” says Dunford, “I’ve forgotten the other two.”

Why should I write a profile on “Fightin’ Joe Dunford?”

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A Leadership Mission . . .  Statement 

Leadership Mission Statement - 1As I have mentioned before, I am involved in a men’s biblical study at my church.  It is the book “Stepping Up” by Dennis Rainey.  Its good stuff and I suggest it, if anyone is looking for something.  One of the things I like about it, is it could be adapted to anyone in any walk of life, including young men.  Last night we had some discussion on a mission for our lives, this turned into a discussion that maybe we should write a mission statement for our lives.  On the drive home, it occurred to me, that maybe to be a leader, you needed to have a mission statement.  More on that in a bit . . .

Where I developed the vast majority of my leadership skills and techniques, our missions were given to us.  We were never really privy to how they were selected, or who selected them.  However it was up to the team members to develop the plan for achieving a successful mission.  Now we always had some operating parameters that we had to deal with, “rules for the playground” we called them, but rules nonetheless.  So our typical mission briefing was — Here is the objective, Here are the support options, How do we get this done? Then there was typically an hour of how, what, why and when questions.  My point is only that the goal was ever revealed to us in that setting.

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Forging a Leader

Forging a Leader - 1There has been a lot of talk on this forum and other forums about being a leader. We have discussed how to become a leader and what a good leader looks like. But I am not sure we have talked enough about the pain and suffering becoming a leader can be. I’m not talking about the “pain in the rear” you get from sitting in a seminar about leadership. I’m talking about the trial by fire and the true forging that develops real leaders. I’m talking about Lincoln and the Civil War, I’m talking about Kennedy and PT 109, and I’m talking about Reagan and the Berlin Wall.

Just to make sure we all understand what I mean, let’s discuss this word that I am using — forging.

Forging is one of the oldest known metal working processes. Traditionally it is performed with a hammer and an anvil and the application of different levels of heat. A forge is a type of hearth used for the application of heat to metals. So I am speaking metaphorically about using a hammer, an anvil and heat to create a leader. Sound difficult?

Ok, so we aren’t really going to use a hammer anvil and forge to create a leader. But I bet if you asked some true leaders, they have felt the heat of the fire, and the pressure of the hammer. I once wrote an article here about why anyone would want to be a leader. I have to admit, it was a little tongue in cheek, but I was hoping it would drive some conversation. This is not that kind of article. This, reader, is about whether or not you are truly prepared for what it takes to be a leader?

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Five Things You Can Do To Prepare The Young To Lead

 

5 Things to Prepare Young Leaders - 2There is much to be learned from those who have served our Country by serving in the military. This is especially true if you look at some of the “specialized” organizations within the military.  I am blessed to have some very dear friends who have served.  One or two have served in some of our military’s most elite units.  Consider the following as it relates to leadership and youth.

“We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates, and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.” — Navy SEAL Creed

Navy SEAL Teams are a relatively flat organization. Everyone goes through the same grueling training, and everyone is trained to lead regardless of age or rank. In the civilian world, emergent leadership is about team members stepping up and taking the initiative to accept more responsibility and to perform work outside of their general roles when called upon. If we, as leaders, encourage and promote this type of drive, our young team members will be ready to rise within the organization, and our organization will be better off for it.

5 Things to Prepare Young Leaders - 1Here are five ways that we can prepare our young people for leadership.  But remember they are, in fact, young:

Give them a platform. Don’t hide your young leaders. Show them to the world. Let them be a feature of your organization.  Encourage them to contribute to the organization’s blog if you have one.  Take them along with you to trade shows and give them an opportunity to represent you in the booth.  And offer them opportunities to collaborate on ways to improve the organization’s systems and offerings.

Manage them, not their output. Get the right people in the right jobs, give them a goal, but don’t micromanage their efforts. It has been my experience that when someone comes to you and says, “I am not trying to micromange, but  . . . “, they are usually micromanaging!  Set goals and boundaries and then back off. Allow them to be innovative and develop systems, processes, and methodologies that will accomplish the goal you set for them and that get the job done. They may and probably will do it differently than you would have done it.  And that is OK.  Doing this will not only result in a more confident team and better retention, but will give your team members a sense of ownership that they wouldn’t get by simply following your orders.

Let them fail.  This one is hard. 

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Louis Zamperini

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Louis Zamperini, Olympian, WWII Veteran, and POW passed away yesterday.

I was very saddened to hear the news.  He became an inspiration to me through his amazing tale of survival and redemption through Christ.  He is my hero.  

I had the amazing honor of spending an entire day with the hero when he came to Houston’s First Baptist to speak about his life.  I was afforded the amazing honor of being his driver and spending precious moments with this incredible man.

Thank you, Louis for being Unbroken.  Thank you Jesus for being Broken for us.

Louis…see ya soon.

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The Bowe Bergdahl Thing

Bergdahl - 1 This morning I am a little angry.  I apologize up front if any of our readers are upset about what I am going to say here, but I participate in this forum and I am going to use it. I have to admit I am a little torn over what has transpired in regard to Bowe Bergdahl.  I am torn because I am former military, I am a patriot, and I am a father.  Additionally, I feel like we have not heard all of this story.

This is not about me, so I really don’t want to address my role in the Navy.  But let me be clear, I would not have expected this to happen to me.  If I had been captured, I would have followed military protocol, and the rules of the Geneva Convention, and would have dealt with being a POW.  So having said that, it would never have happened because I would not have wandered away from my base.  A FORWARD OPERATING Base, without my body armor or weapon.  I feel like the vast majority, I would guess 95% or better, of currently deployed or enlisted military men and women would say, “You would have found me dead of multiple gunshot wounds, laying in a pile of my spent brass”.

I cannot and will not speculate on why Bowe Bergdahl would leave his base, or why he would leave his base without his weapon or body armor, but IF that is what he did, then he is not a hero or a POW, he is a deserter.  And if he is a deserter, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Punitive Article 86 states the following:

“Any member of the armed forces who, without authority, fails to go to his appointed place of duty at the time prescribed, goes from that place; or absents himself or remain absent from his unit, organization or place of duty, at which he is required to be at the time prescribed; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

So it seems to me,

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Sacrificial Leadership

Sacrificial Leadership - 1Real leadership often involves sacrifice. And it is the sacrifices of those that have lead the way and who have forged a path to freedom and liberty that we remember today. Now is also a time to remember those who today stand a watch that allows me to grill hamburgers in my back yard today and then lay my head on my pillow tonight in safety and security.

One of the fallacies that exist today is that the higher one goes in leadership within an organization the more freedom they will have to do what they want. Nothing can be farther from the truth. In fact it is quite the opposite. The higher one rises the less personal freedoms you have and the greater your responsibility is to those who you lead and serve.

Sacrificial Leadership - 2Rodney Mills captured the essence of sacrificial leadership when he wrote on the subject of Being a Servant Leader – A Theme last September. Out of the 8 points he made, the very first one on the list was that being a servant leader requires sacrifice. That is counter culture for many of us. It is counter to human nature that you would run into a burning building while others are running from it. Nevertheless there are brave men and women who do that every day. So, developing a spirit of self-sacrifice is possible. It just isn’t intuitive.

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Leadership in Chaos

Leadership in Chaos - 1I had the privilege of escorting my wife on a trip over the last few days to New York City.  Now those of you that know me, I am sure cannot imagine why I would want to go to New York City.  Well I’ll tell you, because my wife has always wanted to go there.  So I return to work today to relax a little bit and think about the pure and utter chaos that is NYC.  It caused me to remember a “Leadership In Chaos” workshop I attended while I was in the military.  The man that spoke during the workshop was a Colonel and an Airborne Ranger, and today as I write this, he is a leadership consultant at the Military Academy at West Point.

Last Thursday morning at 0530AM I found myself in Times Square standing outside of the Good Morning America studio preparing to be part of the audience that you see outside their window if you have ever watched the morning show.  As the majority of this was pretty slow, I found myself wandering and looking around in Times Square at 6-ish AM.  What did I see? That’s right you guessed it – chaos.

So I got to thinking how a leader would be able to maintain discipline and focus with surroundings like this? Leadership in Chaos - 2I thought our military leaders could offer some ideas.  If there is anything that today’s military leaders are comfortable with it is in being…uncomfortable.  In places like Afghanistan (and Iraq before it), spans of control are so broad, geographic distances are so immense, and challenges so diverse that leaders cannot possibly be everywhere or know everything that is happening.  The fog of war is an almost constant companion to our military heroes.  “VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity – is the new normal.”

Much of what we thought about organizational management is grounded in the “Command & Control” world, a paradigm that just doesn’t fit in today’s VUCA scenario.  Places like Afghanistan are causing us to think differently about some aspects of leadership.  “Decision cycles are too compressed to fit within the top-down Military Decision Making Process (MDMP).”  Things that were accepted norms like, “No more than 5-7 direct reports” are not necessarily true, and can’t be any longer.  Even leadership teachings about things like planning, risk, or scope of responsibility are being re-thought in light of what we are learning downrange.

So, with leadership as we thought we knew it in evolution, how do leaders provide clarity of purpose and thought and drive appropriate actions? 

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