Growing up as a military brat, whenever I had a decision to make, my dad would come back at me with words like, “Your indecisiveness is your greatest weakness. Self-doubt only clouds the fog of war.”
Little deep for a twelve year old, but years later as an entrepreneur and coach, I have come to treasure his words.
15 years ago, after I was promoted to a sales manager and corporate trainer, my dad passed onto me “notes he had logged” over the course of his 50 year career, where he led organizations and trained today’s leaders. These notes served him and his students well. Years later, they also have for me and my clients.
The circumstances differ from my dad´s. However, the lessons he has laid out in his notes transcend the military, and are just as relevant to entrepreneurs, and anyone who leads, as military personnel.
1. GREAT LEADERS ARE BRIEF AND PRECISE IN ALL FORMS OF COMMUNICATION:
Every great leader has at some time or another learned the valuable lesson that the surest way to put their own future at risk was to waste their leadership’s time.
They learned early on that their bosses had far more to do, read, and listen to, than time in the day, recognizing the importance of telling them only what they needed to know and not a word more. This applies to both spoken and written communications. 100 well focused words beats a thousand every time.
“Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated.” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
2. GREAT LEADERS GIVE OTHERS ROOM TO GROW INTO THEIR POTENTIAL:
General George S. Patton got it right when saying, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their ingenuity.”
Great leaders know that empowering others and giving their team room to explore once direction is given, creates three win-win-win situations. It creates growth opportunities for the individual. It builds confidence as a team. Lastly, it ensures their legacy as a leader is preserved because their team will be more motivated than ever to finish what was started, with or without them.
“Trust is the essence of leadership.” — Colin Powell
3. GREAT LEADERS MAKE GOOD DECISIONS AND THEN WORK HARD TO MAKE THEM GREAT:
The outcomes of our decisions are not determined by our words, but by our actions. All great leaders understand that any one decision can go a number of ways and that it is up to the leader to ensure that his team is taking the unsexy, but necessary steps, every single day to make sure success leans in their favor.
Never forget that 50.1% wins.
No good decision was ever made in a swivel chair. — George S. Patton
4. WHEN THEY SCREW UP, GREAT LEADERS OWN UP AND MOVE ON:
We all make mistakes, however upon making one, a leader worth following accepts the blame, apologizes, and then buries the worry. Most people understand the first two steps, but fail to see the last one through.
“When a thing is done, it’s done. Don’t look back. Look forward to your next objective.” — George C. Marshall
6. GREAT LEADERS SEEK OUT CRITICISM:
Great leadership is a constant work in progress, and in order to progress, great leaders surround themselves with others who challenge their way of thinking. They do this not only so they can learn about different perspectives, but to also help identify what you may have missed on the road to right.
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” — Winston Churchill
7. GREAT LEADERS PRAISE IN PUBLIC AND REPRIMAND IN PRIVATE:
No-one is immune to failure, and great leaders know that publicly shaming a fellow team member when things go south, serves no one.
On the flip side when things are going well, great leaders recognize that personal gain and attention jeopardises not only trust, but also bigger picture goals. So instead of seeking the spotlight, they cast the light onto team members who could use the boost.
“Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”– Abraham Lincoln
8. GREAT LEADERS CONTAIN THEIR FEARS and MOVE FORWARD:
Great leaders are not immune to fears of the unknown. The difference is that they are consciously and consistently working towards controlling and learning from them, because they know it is far better to proactively shape the environment than to be shaped.
“One man with courage makes a majority.” — Andrew Jackson
9. GREAT LEADERS DO NOT DISTORT REALITY:
Every great leader at some point in their career came to the conclusion that the brutal facts are the only facts. Too many of us distort reality into a plate that is easy for us to digest. However, it is the leaders job to deal with this ambiguity, while relying on nothing more than the resources available at the time in order to move their organization forward.
“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” — Norman Schwarzkopf
10. GREAT LEADERS RESPECT THE LAW — BUT ACT ON ETHICS:
Acting according to law, and acting ethically are not always the same. A legal action may not be ethical and an ethical action will normally be grounded in law.
Leaders must have the refined frame of reference necessary to envision novel and unprecedented challenges to ethical behaviour well before those challenges emerge. They must do this to protect core values and to ensure the trust and confidence in not only their team, but in society.
“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower
11. GREAT LEADERS ARE ALWAYS GROWING:
General George C. Marshall, was described by his biographer as an, “Unnatural Genius.”
Grant, JC Fuller wrote, was, “A common man who could learn.”
Both men developed their own concept of leadership based on their own qualities, the needs of the organization at the time, and the demands of the environment as they saw them.
They accomplished this by reserving time for personal reflection, analysing their fears and making them speak to them and by studying the errors and weaknesses of themselves and those who came before them.
By doing so with hard work, experience and perseverance, they defeated their own ignorance and shaped their personal style staying true to their character and values.
“Knowledge must become capability.” — Carl von Clausewitz
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