Established in part 1 of this Shared Leadership Series, effective 21st century leadership requires a “shared leadership” approach, where leaders leverage and operate within teams (and teams of teams) to accomplish a mission and associated tasks. The increased complexities of demands placed on leaders and our operating environments today make it infeasible to lead teams and organizations as a singular leader at the top.
In order to build successful “shared leadership” attitudes and competencies across our teams, leaders must target and build three critical tangible aspects (known as artifacts) of our teams’ cultures: building trust through psychological safety, establishing a high learning-orientation, and achieving clarity in team decision-making and “organizational justice.” These alone do not create a complete model for team development, but these three attitudes and competencies are essential foundations to make the team perform successfully, ensure member satisfaction within the team, and to better enable enduring team viability. Continue reading → Shared Leadership Series: Targeting Three Essential Team Culture Artifacts to Form an Effective Team
The study of leadership over the last two centuries has focused on one central figure to explain success, failure, or change within organizations and society: the individual leader at the top. It started with the Great Man Theory, a 19th-century idea that asserted great men (heroes) had decisive historical impacts due to their natural attributes; think Napoleon, Rousseau, and Martin Luther. Our early assessment of leadership argued that to be an effective leader, one must possess a select set of traits.
The issue with this model, and what more recent research reveals, is that the individual leader at the top is only one of four necessary and important factors in this multi-directional social influence process we call leadership. Leadership involves a leader, those being led, the specific situation, and a particular task that must be accomplished. The leader is absolutely important. Leaders influence others by providing purpose, direction and motivation; they have the responsibility to accomplish the task and they implement change necessary to do so, but the leader is only one factor and not sufficient when considered alone. As other factors change, such as those being led or the environment they act in, the leader may have to adjust style and approach. This is the challenge with our society’s romance of past leaders. At the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, for example, the campus is decorated with over a half-dozen statues of famed graduates and stakeholders in establishing the Academy. The mere existence of these stone figures inherently communicates to current cadets, “be like this man and you will be a great leader too.” Unfortunately, it does not account for the drastically changing leadership factors of those being led, the very different situations leaders face today, and ever-evolving and more complex tasks we face today.
3×5 Leadership Note: Tony shared these thoughts with a local community of leaders that he has been working with last week. With his permission, we are sharing an adapted version of his reflections here. When Tony Burgess speaks or writes, I pay attention. I think we can all benefit from his reflection.
“We all do better at work if we regularly have the experience that what we do matters, that it is valuable, and that our presence makes a difference to others … hearing that our work is valued by others can confirm for us that we matter as a person. It connects us to other people. This is no small matter in organizations where the pace and intensity of work can lead a person to feel isolated. This sense that we signify may be one of our deepest hungers. One way we experience that what we are doing at work is valuable is by hearing regularly from others how they value what we do.” (p. 92)
Last year, I assumed a role as a Tactical Officer (TAC) of a West Point Cadet company, where my primary duties include teaching, advising, and coaching the Cadet chain of command as they practice leading and following within a military-style organizational structure. Less than two months into this role, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with how our company was performing. My frustration grew from the gap between my perception of our company’s current level of seemingly average performance and the high amount of potential I saw throughout the entire company and the nearly 120 Cadets in it.
Unfortunately, I let my frustration materialize into my leadership more than I thought and, though unintentional, it started to negatively affect my working relationships with my Cadets. Cadets became colder and more formal in our interactions, they began including me less in their challenges and decision-making, and became less interested in seeking my advice or thoughts. Continue reading → Leadership and the Need for Perpetual Optimism
Recently I was fortunate enough to guide nine cadet companies in developing goals for their organization at the United States Military Academy (USMA), where I currently work. After observing two semesters of failed attempts at mission and vision inculcation, I opted to change the script on how cadets create priorities for their organization to lead deliberately purposeful organizations rather than a group of people who happen to live and work near each other. Working alongside the incoming cadet commanders and first sergeants, flanked with a seasoned TAC NCO (Tactical Non-Commissioned Officer acting as a company First Sergeant) and former USMA cadet leadership, I watched as these future leaders transformed their lofty concepts into tangible steps to improve their formations by leveraging the art and science of creating purpose, direction, and motivation. I found the exercise incredibly impactful as a tool that I believe should be in a leader’s kit bag for future use within any level of an organization and in any industry. Continue reading → Goals In Lieu of Vision: A Practical Exercise in Developing a Purposeful Organization
Empowering your subordinates is at the heart of the military’s Mission Command ethos of leadership. Recently having been appointed to a coalition staff, my experience working alongside different specialities, services, civilians, and other nations has exposed me to some of the best practices across a wide cohort. Even when the language, terminology, culture, and ethos differ, empowerment has been the greatest tool to devolving decision-making and multiplying efficiency within the staff environment, but these can easily apply in tactical-level units like regimental duty command appointments, and even to many non-military industries. I have framed these as the 4 Cs of Empowerment: Continue reading → The 4 Cs of Empowerment
I hope every leader out there wants to do their best and wants to help those around them become better. Developing others is so deeply ingrained in the role of a leader that it can easily become part of the leader’s identity. As any experienced leader can tell you, though, subordinates get a “vote” in the process, potentially making any sort of development impossible. Leaders may not always be able to impact everyone and the resources necessary (time, etc) to make the required impact may not be realistic or feasible. The old adage goes, “90% of your time is spent on 10% of your people.” If this is true, it can leave many around you under-developed. However, this article is not about your time allocation or even about the other 90%; it is about those 10%…the ones that presented you with a challenge and the ones that were failing. What happens if part of the problem is you? Continue reading → When Our Leadership Isn’t Good Enough
Bottom line: improved self-awareness directly leads to improved effectiveness as a leader. Research proves it. And I bet many of your own experiences prove it as well.
This concept of self-awareness is challenging, though. It’s complex, it’s hard to conceptualize, and often harder to operationalize in our own or others’ lives. But, it is essential in our growth and development as leaders.
In my experience and my learning, I’ve found that we can categorize self-awareness into three primary domains: personality, skills & abilities, values & motives. This model helps us better understand and simplify this complex concept, improve our learning and the language we use to discuss it, and ultimately more effectively operationalize it in our behaviors. Continue reading → Self-Awareness & Your Leadership Effectiveness
By CPT Desmond Clay (LG), CPT Paul Guzman (AR), and CPT Kyle Hensley (LG)
Serving as an aide-de-camp to a General Officer is a humbling and unique experience. This is one of the relatively rare jobs where a junior officer has an opportunity to gain insight on how the “Big Army” runs. Although it has been a few years since we served as aide-de-camps (AdC), there are a few enduring lessons we would like to share. Rarely is the transition period long enough to capture or discuss every possible contingency. Although there is a formal course for an enlisted aide, there is not a course for an AdC. Luckily, there is a General Officer Aide Handbook to help you navigate through this small community with some really helpful tips (1). We think there are six rules for success. Continue reading → A Junior Officer’s Perspective on Surviving as an Aide-de-Camp: 6 Rules for Success
When I turned 16, I bought a red 1990 Dodge Dakota.
I washed that truck several times each month and did all of the routine maintenance. I drove it carefully and was reluctant to let anyone else drive it, even my parents. I was proud of my ride. That truck was a major step toward adulthood and the responsibility that comes with it. I felt complete ownership for my truck because my parents were clear. If you want a car, you buy it. If you want to drive your car, you pay for the gas. All of the costs and benefits were mine alone.
Ownership isn’t tied to a thing like a truck, it is tied to an environment. How many people change the oil in a rental car? For a rental car, it is completely different. You pay for the privilege to not care about the car itself, just the transportation it provides. You can forget about the responsibility of dings and scratches, just pay a small fee for insurance. You don’t care if the car gets regular oil changes. You only care that it works for your week long vacation. Continue reading → Ownership