January 25, 2021


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Leaders have different roles in organizations. Some leaders are the organization itself, such as a sole proprietorship or a small business where the founder is the owner, operator, labor, and intellectual property. The other end of the spectrum is large matrixed organizations like multinational conglomerates such as Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and General Electric. The US Military is the most complex matrixed organization globally, and by default and design, the most efficient and effective because roles of leaders, executors, and support functions are clearly defined. Titles or ranks characterize them, qualifications determine them, and responsibilities define them. 

Our first job as leaders is to assess and understand our organization and the role we fill on our team, department, and the company writ large. Then we determine what those around us need to be successful; our superiors above, our subordinates below, and our peers across.  As leaders, we tend to want to jump in and be the focal point of our teams. The “Doers” of everything. In the Infantry, our tagline was “Follow-me.” As Rangers, we said, “Rangers Lead The Way.” 

Leading is not always about doing it yourself or being the fastest, most robust, or most innovative. Most often, effective leadership comes down to a few fundamental principles:

  • Setting a vision for the organization 
  • Clarifying the mission behind that vision and the path required to execute it
  • Assessing talent and building a team that aligns with and lives that vision and mission without compromise 
  • Determining the support and resources your team needs to complete that mission
  • Providing these resources and gaining necessary support up, down, and across
  • Keeping execution aligned with the vision and mission; without being afraid to iterate and change when opportunities arise to enhance the product, the process, or even the team. 

There are nine characteristics of High Potential talent: Drive, Resiliency, Adaptability, Humility, Integrity, Effective Intelligence, Team-Ability, Curiosity, Emotional Strength. To clearly understand our role as a leader and get comfortable there, we need five:

  • Humility: we must recognize that we do not have all the answers. We must become willing learners, seeking others’ input and feedback to make more educated decisions.
  • Team Ability: we must prioritize organizational needs ahead of ourselves, working as a cohesive unit towards a defined goal.
  • Integrity: we must understand what is legal and correct, aligning our actions and words to both without compromising ourselves or others. 
  • Effective Intelligence: we must apply our own experience and knowledge to the situation leaning on what we have learned previously to identify solutions for the future.
  • Emotional Strength: we must have emotional control in stressful situations bringing calm to chaos and setting an example for those around us. 

Understand yourself. Understand your organization. Invest in both.

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