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What Is Your Leadership “One Big Thing?”

Leadership One Big Thing_3x5 Leadership

I met with a friend recently who just finished reading Radical Inclusion, by GEN (Ret.) Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman. During our conversation, he anxiously claimed, “there is so much from that book that I want to start doing, I don’t even know where to start.”

I think we have all been there in some capacity. I felt the same way when I finished David Marquet’s Turn the Ship Around! Personally, with all of the books, blogs, journals, and podcasts I routinely engage in, it is easy for me to get overwhelmed with the new ideas for leadership improvement and organizational development. I often feel compelled to do it all now, though I know it won’t be effective or sustainable. Even all of the 3×5 Leadership blog posts, when considered collectively, can easily send a message of “do all of this now!”

So, I want to offer a simple model of personal leader development and a strategy to focus on the most important improvements to develop as a leader. The model, below, is broken down into four steps that I recommend you follow, where each step encourages you to write out a statement or a list. You’ll end with an identified leader behavior to improve on, the purpose of it, an actionable strategy, and timeline to work in it. Continue reading → What Is Your Leadership “One Big Thing?”

A Willingness to Learn: The Critical Foundation to Leader Development

Willingness to Learn_Growth Mindset_3x5 Leadership

Inherent to leader development and many of the posts on 3×5 Leadership is the idea that we are all continuously growing and developing our leader capacities. This, then, assumes that leadership is a learned ability and not really a natural trait that we are or are not born with. In my leadership roles within the organizations I serve, I routinely assert that a major goal for my leader development programs is to inspire peoples’ commitment to being life-long learners.

So, how exactly do we approach developing this attitude of and passion for learning leadership? I argue that we must differentiate one’s ability to learn from their willingness to. According to The Center for Creative Leadership’s Leader Development Model, one’s ability to learn from experience is a complex combination of motivational factors, personality factors, and learning tactics; it is one’s cognitive ability and achieved skill of efficiently receiving new knowledge. This is different from a willingness to learn, or what is called a “growth mindset,” which is a term popularized by Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A growth mindset, one’s willingness to learn, is understanding that intelligence and leadership ability is not fixed, but can be gained, and they see learning as valuable in itself. People with growth mindsets commit to learning and are willing to take responsible risks in order to improve. Continue reading → A Willingness to Learn: The Critical Foundation to Leader Development

Character: The Necessary, Yet Often Ignored, Trait to Define Leaders of the 21st Century

The Character of 21st Century Leaders_3x5 Leadership

In May 1991, following Desert Storm and months before his retirement, GEN Norman Schwartzkopf gave a speech to United States Military Academy (USMA) Cadets. In it, he argued that the two essential traits that must define leaders of the 21st century are competence and character (I highly encourage you to check out the inspiring speech here, in parts one, two, and three). So much time, money, and effort are poured into developing leader competence to achieve performance capacity and organizational success. Hundreds of books, journals, podcasts, and blogs (to include this one) center around developing leader competence. Yet, we pay less attention to character development. I believe it is because character is so intangible, hard to define, and even difficult to determine its impact on an organization; I think it is easy to determine if someone has bad character but it is less clear to determine if they have good character.

Deliberately addressing character is an organizational and leader developer necessity; the lack of such attention is ultimately the root cause of our society’s seemingly extensive erosion of integrity and respect showcased by the many downfalls of high visibility leaders (to include military) and once respected celebrities. My previous brigade commander constantly reiterated to his subordinate leaders that “character counts more than resume.” Continue reading → Character: The Necessary, Yet Often Ignored, Trait to Define Leaders of the 21st Century

The Junior Officer Reading & Self-Development List

Junior Officer Reading & Development List pic_3x5 Leadership

This is an exciting season when our next generation of new Army officers join our ranks and take up the mantle of responsibility of leading our Soldiers in conflict to support and defend our Constitution. This time of transition from cadet to officer is truly inspiring and naturally a life-long honor and memory; I distinctly remember my own day of tossing my cap in the air as pictured above years ago.

With this transition, however, comes an extreme change in environment. No longer are you surrounded by (literally) dozens of officers solely focused on pouring into your development as a leader academically, militarily, physically; no one is designated to help educate you on the importance of character and leadership. Unfortunately, this massive leader development support structure surrounding you is now gone. Your continued development as a leader is now your own responsibility.

“The single best way a leader can learn and grow is through reading…So many of our best leaders develop and enhance their ability to lead through endless contact with books.” –ADM. (Ret.) James Stavridis, US Navy

The coming weeks of graduation leave and Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) is an ideal time to start a habit of self-development, to continue to learn about leadership, developing your own leadership style, and better understanding the profession you are now a member of. This is my list of recommended reads and self-development resources to kickstart your “leader growth journey.” These are the books I wish I read first before being a platoon leader; these are the blogs I wish existed when I was preparing for platoon leadership and company command; these are the Army doctrine publications I wish I mastered before trying to develop my own subordinates. Start with these. Just like your mom used to make you do during summer break back in middle school, spend 20 minutes a day reading; the interest of value you gain will compound with time. Continue reading → The Junior Officer Reading & Self-Development List

Do All Things with Energy and Optimism

Marshall_3x5 Leadership_Engery & Optimism

By Tom Correll

George C. Marshall is well known in leadership and military history circles for his service as Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and as one of the key architects of the Allied war effort in World War II. While his reputation is largely dominated by his later accomplishments, early actions were no less notable. Following duties in the Philippines, Marshall was assigned to the Allied Expeditionary Force in France during World War I, where he served with distinction in the 1st Infantry Division.

In the fall of 1920 Major Marshall, wrote to Brigadier General (Retired) John Mallory to document a previous conversation on “the advice I would give a young officer going to war, based on my observation of what had constituted the success of the outstanding figures in the American Expeditionary Forces.” (1-176 letter) Mallory was a competent professional of his own right, receiving two Silver Stars in the Philippines, and still found Marshall’s points compelling.

Marshall highlighted four main qualities: optimism, energy, loyalty, and determination. One hundred years later, this letter still resonates today. Continue reading → Do All Things with Energy and Optimism

Recommended Apps to Support Your Leader Self-Development and Growth

Leader Learning Apps_3x5 Leadership

There are thousands of online lists offering recommended productivity or “life-hack” apps to help improve your time management, collaboration, and organization. Without question, many of these recommendations are immensely valuable. However, I’ve recently come to wonder what apps people use to support their growth and development, especially as leaders. Unfortunately, there are not as many lists targeted to this topic.

Thus, as a follow up to my previous leader growth tools blog post, I want to offer my recommendations of apps that I leverage to aid in my daily pursuits to learn and grow as a leader in the various roles in my life. Many of these are tailored to my preferred methods of learning and may not necessarily work for you. However, I believe this list can at least get you thinking of a system (app or otherwise) to fill that particular void in your learning efforts. Continue reading → Recommended Apps to Support Your Leader Self-Development and Growth

What Tools Are You Using for Your Leader Growth?

Basic CMYK

What is the primary tool you use to learn and grow as a leader?

How do you record key experiential lessons or ideas in the moment?

Finally, how do you maintain them for long-term retention and use?

I argue that every leader should define how they are learning and what tool(s) they use toward that effort.

In his blog, From the Green Notebook, Joe Byerly clearly defines his learning tool as the famous Army green notebook. Here, on 3×5 Leadership, I identify mine as the common 3×5 index card. I believe there is an important message conveyed on the value of defined learning tools when leader development blogs such as these are named after the author’s tool of choice.

After defining what their learning tool of choice is, I often see leaders struggle to make the next necessary step: to do something with the product. I don’t believe it’s terribly effective to keep a bookshelf of filled green notebooks that are likely untouched afterwards, or to keep a box full of hundreds of filled-out index cards somewhere on a shelf or closet. Further, like almost every Army leader, I too use a green notebook. However, it often becomes filled with daily urgent “to do” lists in addition to insightful leader lessons that I should remember years down the road. How do you separate those so the important lessons are not lost in the noise of the notebook daily tasks? To truly learn from the lessons you record, you need to make them easily accessible. I argue that you need to create a personal learning resource to centralize your valuable lessons. Continue reading → What Tools Are You Using for Your Leader Growth?

Writing as a Means of Learning

Writing as a Means of Learning_Franklin Annis post_3x5 Leadership

Guest post by Franklin C. Annis, EdD

When you think about learning, the act of writing typically isn’t one of the first thoughts that come to mind, but maybe it should be. There is a lot of aspects about writing for military self-development that makes it an extremely useful tool. The act of writing forces you to organize your thoughts, it develops a critical communication skill, it can be used to demonstrate expertise, it can be used to seek help in defining a problem, and test proposed solutions in front of a wider audience. For these reasons and more, every service member should consider publishing to build both their personal capabilities and expand the knowledge of the larger community.

In this article, I provide several justifications for service members to engage in writing and publishing. Hopefully this might start you on the path of writing for personal development and to contribute to our community of practice. Continue reading → Writing as a Means of Learning

Building A Community of Practice: How Are You Contributing to Our Learning Organization?

3x5 Leadership Community of Practice_1

Would you consider your organization and the people that comprise it as a learning organization? Personally, as a member of the US Army, I absolutely believe that we strive to be a learning organization. Amidst the myriad of ways that organizations can establish themselves as a learning one with systems and methods to do so, I want to address a critical question to you: what, then, are you doing to contribute to your organization’s learning? In professional networks, this is called “building a community of practice.”

A community of practice is a group of people who are bound together by the passion of some thing or practice, and desire to learn how to do it better as they regularly interact. Would you consider yourself a member of a community of practice? I argue that in reading this and subscribing to 3×5 Leadership, you are a member of a community of practice for organizational leadership, working to improve your organization and your life through leadership.

So, how are you contributing to your community of practice? There is a difference between being a member and actually contributing; the community is only valuable, and the organization is only learning, if its members are contributing. Continue reading → Building A Community of Practice: How Are You Contributing to Our Learning Organization?

Leaders Are Readers Part VIII: Introducing the New 3×5 Leadership “Bookshelf!”

3x5 Leadership Leaders Are Readers 2

This is the conclusion of a series addressing the value of reading for leaders’ personal and professional development. You can begin the series with Part I: Introduction HERE.

Now, after seven weeks of sharing my lessons on professional reading, it is time to put my words into action!

Introducing the new 3×5 Leadership Bookshelf reading resource!

The 3×5 Leadership Bookshelf page is a comprehensive resource regarding all things related to professional development reading. It will be a “living” page on the blog website that is routinely updated to give you the best reading content possible. Continue reading → Leaders Are Readers Part VIII: Introducing the New 3×5 Leadership “Bookshelf!”