The Greatest of These is Love

“Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice.” –Bob Goff, Love Does.

This quote has so deeply influenced my authentic leadership style in support of my leader philosophy. First and foremost, I choose to lead with love. I truly am passionate about making people & organizations better through leader development; this comes from a genuine wellspring of love for people and their/our work. And still, the longer I lead and the more I experience, the more I find this conviction to be true.

Ultimately, I think it surfaces the need for leaders to show up, genuinely care about others, and create leadership space for them to fill. More often than not, it’s these things that best enable team success and improvement, and less about me as the leader occupying leadership space by fixing, directing, and even speaking.

But how do we accomplish this? Continue reading → The Greatest of These is Love

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 4 – Communicating What’s Essential Always in All Ways

This is part 4 of The Organizational Clarity Series. We encourage you to start with an introduction to the idea in part 1, HERE.

“Leadership requires two things: A vision of the world that does not exist yet and the ability to communicate it.” Simon Sinek, Start with Why

How many attempts does it take to break a bad habit? Or to start a new one? Or how many times must we interact (read, write, recite, etc.) with new information to remember and internalize it?

Once we’ve gone through the important labor of creating and clarifying our team’s essential core, we unfortunately see so many leaders merely publish it to their team in some isolated, grand reveal. They may publish it through a speech, memo, email, or something. They may hang it on a poster or paint it on their team’s work area wall. But then that’s it; it ends after that “grand” reveal and introduction. The issue is, though, that no one’s mind was ever changed by a single speech, lecture, email, or memo. They certainly won’t remember it after just one either. As the opening questions allude to, this requires repetition.

It takes us a comparatively short amount of time to cultivate our team’s core and then clarify it. It may take you and select leaders within your organization a few days, weeks, or even months. But once codified, we must now enter the long journey of sustaining that core – for years and years.

Leaders create and clarify the team’s essential core. But, once established, they must anchor it every day by communicating it in a variety of ways to make it relevant and, in fact, essential. The role of leader is synonymous with “Chief Reminding Officer” – reinforcing to everyone on the team who we are, what we do, and why we do it…always and in all ways. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 4 – Communicating What’s Essential Always in All Ways

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 3 – Clarifying Our Essential Core

This is part 3 of The Organizational Clarity Series. We encourage you to start with an introduction to the idea in part 1, HERE.

If you can’t talk freely with the most junior members of your organization, then you’ve lost touch.” ―Jim Mattis, Call Sign Chaos

We’ve finally labored with our leadership team in creating our essential core as discussed in part 2 – great! Now what? Well, now we need to validate this core by clarifying it. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 3 – Clarifying Our Essential Core

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 2 – Creating Our Essential Core

This is part 2 of The Organizational Clarity Series. We encourage you to start with an introduction to the idea in part 1, HERE.

“The only truly reliable source of stability is a strong inner core and the willingness to change and adapt everything except that core.” ―Jim Collins, Built to Last

Striving for excellence is not the same thing as merely avoiding failure. All too often, our teams and organizations spend too much effort on avoiding failure, reacting to changing circumstances, simply managing the day-to-day minutia of routine and urgent work. These are not the reasons we were inspired to join our organization in the first place.

Contrary to what we are so used to seeing, we should not first respond to our changing environment by asking, “How should we change?” Instead, we must default to the questions of, “Why do we exist and what do we stand for?” These are the ideals that give us purpose and direction, regardless of circumstances, and should rarely change (if ever).

To enable our organizations to actually know why we exist and what we stand for, leaders must create clarity around those ideas; we must codify our organization’s essential core. This is the first of three steps in creating organizational clarity. In this part of the series, we explore what an organizational “core” is, why it’s important to define, and how we can approach creating it for our team. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 2 – Creating Our Essential Core

The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 1 – It’s Time We Admit We Have a Problem

Imagine a scenario where you take over as the new leader of a team and you work to define the essential core of your team though a well-crafted vision and mission statement. You put considerable effort into formulating these ideas, being highly selective about the message and language. After creating, publishing, and displaying this new core of your team, a senior leader from your larger organization comes to visit your team. During the visit, they see your posted vision and mission and ask one of your direct reports – an upper-level manager on your team who helped create those statements – about it…and the person cannot remember the statements. They can’t recite or describe the statements themselves, or even articulate some of the key words or themes from them. Yikes! I’m sure both you and the senior leader are now questioning what impact these statements are even having on your team.

Unfortunately, we experienced this exact scenario last week as an observing third party. The team’s leader certainly understood he had a leadership challenge. Continue reading → The Organizational Clarity Series, Part 1 – It’s Time We Admit We Have a Problem

Doing Routine Things Routinely – Leaders Must Still Be Managers

“Great organizations do routine things routinely,” is an old saying (at least within the military) that I love and has resonated with me since I heard it earlier in my career. However, with time, I’ve found that while many love the idea of the quote (it sounds impactful and important), I don’t think most fully understand what it actually means.

Moreover, I recently finished Ryan Hawk’s new book, Welcome to Management, where, in it, he quotes his dad who asserts that, “You are now a leader. You must become a ‘numbers guy’ [management] and continue to inspire. You need to lead, manage, and coach. To be excellent, you have to do all three.”

I’m sure most of us can look to a time where we served within an organization that seemed to be merely reacting day-to-day, only tackling the short, immediate issues each day and never working to deliberately shape a distant future. We would walk away from work each day feeling like we strove just to survive, stay afloat, and avoid failure – but not having accomplished anything truly important long-term.

Looking back at Ryan Hawk’s quote, the concepts of leading and coaching are the ‘sexy’ ones that we all want to do and become better at – we read, study, and practice to improve our leadership and coaching abilities. But, unfortunately, the art and science of management don’t get such popular attention because, well, it’s an unsexy topic; it’s not inspiring, doesn’t contribute to some grand legacy, or directly positively impact lives. But managing well is important because, if we don’t, our organization and people do not reach the personal and collective capacity to do the other efforts well. Effective management enables effective leadership, leader development, and coaching by creating capacity. With that added capacity, we can then pour available attention and energy into other, and arguably more important, efforts like developing leaders, building a strong culture, improving performance, and so on. Continue reading → Doing Routine Things Routinely – Leaders Must Still Be Managers

Avoiding Burnout: 9 Things to Build “Leader Resilience”

Outside of three weeks of paternity leave with my family, I have not taken any vacation or leave time since before the COVID pandemic began in March. And though paternity leave was an amazing time for my family and I, it certainly wasn’t a restful time. Bottom line is…I’m tired. Yes, I’m passionate about and love what I do, but it’s been a long year with little to no respite. I believe many are in a similar boat as me – we are at or near professional burnout.

It takes a lot to bring engaged leadership, optimism and energy, and deliberate development to our people and organizations. Burnt-out leaders can’t do that effectively. And while it is important to take necessary time for vacation and rest as leaders, we may not always be able to do that on our own timelines. As much as possible, we need to be resilient leaders able to keep showing up every day and bring the purpose, direction, and motivation that our people are entitled to.

So, we need to talk about ways to avoid burning-out and being resilient leaders able to sustain our personal and collective organizational responsibilities. It’s easy to talk about the idea of being resilient leaders, but hard to enact it day in and day out.

To help contribute this is important conversation of leadership, resiliency, and burnout – I offer nine practical things that help me show up every day and to maintain a full “leadership cup”…because we can’t pour into others from an empty cup. I expect that by sprinkling these small habits or actions over our schedule each week and month, we are able to remain being the leaders we desire to be and that our people deserve for the long haul. Continue reading → Avoiding Burnout: 9 Things to Build “Leader Resilience”

Defining Our Leadership Philosophy

In recently starting a new academic year at West Point, NY, I engaged in the important process of initial counseling with my Cadet staff. Over those 25 conversations in getting to know the Cadets better, setting duty expectations between us, and clarifying their developmental goals, I was surprised by a common thread among a majority of them – many wanted to figure out their leadership philosophy. I asked the Cadets their perceptions on a leadership philosophy and what exactly they are looking to create. I quickly found that the comments centered on wanting to first learn what a leadership philosophy is; “I know it’s important and I want to find out how to make my own.”

This is common in the Army and I’m sure other professions experience something similar. For the Army, when young officers prepare to assume command of a company, the process of creating their leadership philosophy is often identified as a mandatory step before formally assuming that role. I think others can relate to having a new brigade commander or some similar role assume command to then immediately publish their leadership philosophy memorandum to all subordinate leaders.

What I’ve found over the years is that everyone, at least within the Army, finds this concept of a leadership philosophy as super important, but are not overly clear on what it actually is, what it should look like, or how we publish or implement it.

So, to help provide some clarity, I offer a model for a leadership philosophy. It’s offered as a model (not the model) as a means to help us better conceptualize and implement this “big shiny object” of leadership that we place a lot of emphasis on, but may not quite know what exactly to do with. I hope we are able to find some ways to best adapt and apply something within this piece to improve our leader effectiveness. Continue reading → Defining Our Leadership Philosophy

In Whom Do We Trust – Part 3: Trust as Leader Behavior

This is the final part in the 3-part series looking at leadership and trust. You can start the series HERE with part 1.

The heart of what we do in life and leadership should always be “why” – clarifying purpose and passion for what we do. We started off this series in looking at why trust matters for leaders and within teams.

Expanding from that, leaders address the “what” – the things we do to achieve our core purpose. In part 2, we looked at what trust is, defining it by three essential components.

Finally, we must focus on “how” – the tangible ways we are achieving trust and building our cohesive team. For me, there is an important leap from simply understanding trust (why and what) to actively building it in our leader behavior (how). We culminate this series on leadership and trust in looking at how leaders can seek to earn, build, and maintain the trust of our people and teams. Continue reading → In Whom Do We Trust – Part 3: Trust as Leader Behavior

Happiness and Success: Embracing Your Unit, Soldiers, and Oneself for Outstanding Leadership and Fulfillment

Happiness and Success_3x5 Leadership

By Harrison “Brandon” Morgan

As a young Cadet at West Point, like many of my fellow classmates, I dreamed of one day becoming a Special Forces team leader, leading my detachment through the trials of unconventional warfare. During two separate summers, I even attempted both the Combat Diver Course and Special Forces Selection.

It didn’t work out. I’m currently a staff officer in an armored brigade. And I absolutely love it. Before this assignment, I served as a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer in an Airborne Infantry Battalion with a completely different mission, culture, and capability set. The leaders that I have seen who were the happiest and, correspondingly, the most successful in these diverse units displayed the same tenants that can be applied in any formation across the Army. Continue reading → Happiness and Success: Embracing Your Unit, Soldiers, and Oneself for Outstanding Leadership and Fulfillment