Since the beginning of time young men have been set apart to learn skills as warriors. The techniques applied in the training literally begin through physical exhaustion in order to command their thoughts. By simple rote methods, the instructors would then begin to build the warriors back into a cohesive, loyal, committed and honorable band of brothers. Each of us has encountered situations that are similar, requiring everyone to pull together or die (figuratively or literally as the case may be).
Now, you may ask how this extreme example applies to the sophisticated executive of 21st century America and his leadership development. The answer lies in the “changing of each man’s heart”. Military development employs a severe, life-changing process to capture the essence of the individual. Almost like brainwashing, the physical fatigue element of training reduces the entire group to a single, basic unit whose common goal is to survive and whose will can be controlled by the instructor. It might be said that each man is reduced to his common denominator. There is no thinking for himself, no side-bar personal agendas, no undermining of authority; the warrior simply reacts while he is methodically brought back to a significant state of readiness through gut-wrenching, personal discipline and dedicated instructional direction. Is the heart actually being changed in this scenario? Absolutely! What used to be wants, desires, gotta-haves and selfish gain suddenly take on a new dimension. The warrior asks: Who am I? What part do I play in this story? How can I ensure that we achieve the short-term goals required for my unit to survive any conflict? What ultimately keeps us alive?
The answer comes in as many shapes and sizes as there are leaders. What one must understand and deal with is that in order to accomplish the mission, leaders must make accurate decisions, direct the lives of others and ultimately, guard the very honor of the organization and its people.
Does this imply, then, that we must identify potential leaders, run them to exhaustion and then build them into leaders? No. The solution is quite rational and deliberate, but there does need to be a transformation. The prospective or developing leader must ask these questions to begin the journey:
“Life Criteria” – requires a compelling “who am I?, what do I stand for?, how should I act?, from whence comes my strength?, can you count on me?, do I have what it takes? and will I finish strong?”
While in Boot Camp, the warriors mentioned at the beginning of this paper answer each of these questions in no uncertain terms. When they finish their development they know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they have arrived; their lives truly matter and each man claims his life of significance.
For the executive, CEO or general officer, these leadership techniques begin with commitment. The individual leader must first commit to lead. This is the initial step in the heart transplant that is taking place. “Just say yes to leadership!”
Our executive or CEO must now “look at himself in the mirror”. This is hard for many of us to do. Experience and past pain tell us to keep up the barriers, not to let anyone or any process know who we really are. But, in order to find your way you must first know from whence you started. It was like that on nuclear missile-shooting submarines. We could never hope to hit our targets if we didn’t confidently know where we were at the time of firing. Get a snapshot of who you are, Mr. Executive. Spend some time in reflection, taking personality profile assessments and looking in the mirror. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself at this juncture, but we must certainly get to know you or the future targets will be impossible to attain.
Is the picture beginning to be more clear? It was said by Theodore Roosevelt long ago that “He who makes no mistakes makes no progress.” Leader, don’t look back or rest on your past victories. We are counting on you to take positive steps forward, learn and understand just who you are. Then, we will overlay the leadership styles and premise that most clearly represent your characteristics. Some of the results will hurt your feelings, others will make you take notice, but assuredly, the strength in your heart will begin to take shape.
How long has it been since you identified personal virtues that clearly represent your core being? In this world of political correctness it is difficult to stand for what is in your heart. Do terms like: trust, integrity, confidence, commitment, delegation, initiative and performance resonate in your very being? They will. They must. Some, but not necessarily all, will become part of that “new heart”.
You are now entering your endurance phase of heart surgery. We have settled many mixed feelings and emotions that you thought were real. Although you could put your finger on trouble spots, no one has challenged you to stand up for what you believe. At least, not until you had begun this journey.
Over the years we have witnessed the finest leaders exhibit characteristics like:
1. Set the example
2. Seek responsibility
3. Accept accountability
4. Train their people as a team
5. Make sound and timely decisions
6. Communicate effectively
7. Plan for success
8. Create a supportive environment
9. Listen actively
10. Execute smartly
Some or all of these will become your trademarks. How, you ask? Let’s take the next fateful step in heart surgery. Your personal profiles and team building attributes must be determined. Characteristics like those above resonate in your very being…they really are who you have become.
But, before we classify your leadership qualities, we must understand and analyze the culture in which you lead. That has to be a more global analysis and must include the assessments of your executive team. Cultural differentiation will form the superstructure for your leadership legacy. Not merely qualifying whom you lead, what you lead or how you lead, this measure sets the stage as the lynch pin for all future leadership impact. We have defined your leadership style and premise and must now blend that in such a way as to set your organization free in these and other areas:
1. From anxiety
2. Completing that which has begun
3. Personal growth
4. Professional growth
5. Organizational growth
6. Best direction
7. Strong strategy
8. Faith in others (trust)
9. Knowing who you are
10. Bright future
Is the final result apparent? Dee Hock (founder of VISA Corporation) in his stimulating exposé, The Art of Chaordic Leadership, insists that we develop four leadership models: 1) personal leadership (advancing your personal skill set), 2) leading up (exceeding expectations with your bosses), 3) lead side-to-side (ensuring your contemporaries are onboard) and, finally, leading down. In order for us to accomplish this extremely intense self-directed leadership plan, something must give. We must institute change all around.
Hear this! The change must first begin in the leader’s heart. Without the courage, commitment or faith in yourself, all the leadership primers in the world will not transform how we dramatically improve our destiny as leaders.
And, finally, how will you know? Remember those young warriors we identified early in this writing? Stand near them as the American flag passes. Watch them as they enjoy the Star Spangled Banner. Or, better yet, crawl in that humvee, F/A 18 fighter jet or SSN 21 nuclear fast attack submarine and witness their esprit de corps. Each band of brothers that causes tyrants and terrorism to topple, does so by changing hearts one young man at a time.
Leader, that is you. Your time is here. Follow your heart, stand up for honor and integrity and witness the profound change you will have accomplished in one simple heart transformation. Lead the Way!!!
Often tested, always faithful, brothers forever!!