Without mature self-leadership competencies, leaders face an increasingly unsustainable environment. The stress of growing job complexity, difficult decisions, limited time, information overload, the high stakes of negative consequences (this list goes on for a while) combined with the attention required to maintain family, friends, church, hobbies (this list also goes on) can be impossible to manage. UNLESS you understand that self-leadership comes before all other levels of leadership (direct-, organizational-, strategic-) and have ingrained the self-leadership disciplines you need to sustain the leadership environment.
Self-Leadership is a continual cognitive discipline that strengthens the spiritual core and builds mental, physical, and emotional wellness to maximize performance and happiness* to reach personal and organizational objectives.
*The Stoics defined happiness (eudaimonia) more deeply as “flourishing” and “living in agreement with your purpose (nature).” Contrast with “hapless”
“Questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing.”
[Your subordinates] will take queue from you: You show loyalty they learn loyalty; you show them it’s about the work it will be about the work; you show them some other kind of game then that’s the game they’ll play….there will come a day when you will have to decide if it’s about you or about the work. Lieutenant Daniels, The Wire
“We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on “good” rather than “time” and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes.”
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. ”
“Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive”
“In the high country of the mind one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of uncertainty, and to the enormous magnitude of questions asked, and to the answers proposed to these questions….one hesitates even to go near for fear of getting lost in them and never finding one’s way out…. (From above) The sweep goes on and on and on so obviously much further than the mind can grasp.”
“You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow”
“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top.”
“For every fact there is an infinity of hypotheses.”
“The past cannot remember the past. The future can’t generate the future. The cutting edge of this instant right here and now is always nothing less than the totality of everything there is.” [The ancient greeks] saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away before their eyes.”
“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”
“‘Man is the measure of all things.’ Yes….The Quality which creates the world emerges as a relationship between man and his experience. He is a participant in the creation of all things.”
“In the high country of the mind one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of uncertainty, and to the enormous magnitude of questions asked, and to the answers proposed to these questions. The sweep goes on and on and on so obviously much further than the mind can grasp one hesitates even to go near for fear of getting lost in them and never finding one’s way out.” Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Oh, the jobs people work at!
Out west near Hawtch-Hawtch
there’s a Hawtch-Hawtcher Bee-Watcher.
His job is to watch…
is to keep both his eyes on the lazy town bee.
A bee that is watched will work harder, you see.
Well… he watched and he watched.
But, in spite of his watch,
that bee didn’t work any harder. Not mawtch.
So then somebody said,
“Our old bee-watching man
just isn’t bee-watching as hard as he can.
He ought to be watched by another Hawtch-Hawtcher!
The thing that we need
is a Bee-Watcher-Watcher!”
The Bee-Watcher-Watcher watched the Bee-Watcher.
He didn’t watch well. So another Hawtch-Hawtcher
had to come in as a Watch-Watcher-Watcher!
And today all the Hawtchers who live in Hawtch-Hawtch
are watching on Watch-Watcher-Watchering-Watch,
Watch-Watching the Watcher who’s watching that bee.
You’re not a Hawtch-Watcher.
You’re lucky, you see!
Dr Suess, 1973
Note: This article was orginally published in the Texas Military Forces publication The Dispatch
As overseas contingencies and operations lessen for our current military forces, many service members returning home may not only question his/her own future career, but that of the profession. Common questions may include a desire for one to predict the types of future conflicts or focus on overall costs of maintaining the most expensive defensive strategy in the world. Regardless of the era or generation, post-war transitions result in leaders providing tough answers to difficult questions, while keeping the well-being of the country a top priority. During these times of uncertainty, the U.S. needs strong leaders across all levels who adhere to attributes necessary to navigate these transitions. Through monumental achievements, ethical qualities and an extraordinary philosophy and managerial style, Gen. George C. Marshall serves as a model of such a leader.
Before discussing the attributes and competencies contributing to revered success, it is important to provide some background and insight to the leader dubbed “a man for all seasons.” A shy and reserved youth and mediocre student at best, it was a love for history and a desire to seek advanced education at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) that launched his career. Fast forward to the day Marshall became the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, at which time, Germany invaded Poland and ushered in World War II. Over a three-year period, Marshall transitioned the U.S. Army from 189,000 outmoded and ill-equipped soldiers into the 8,000,000-soldier force that won the war.
Following the war and its victories, he broke through parochial services plans and rebuilt the total force that included maintaining the National Guard as an integral force, part of America’s first line of defense. This decision is one we benefitted from during a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. As secretary of state and the orchestrator of the so-called Marshall Plan (European Recovery Plan), he helped rebuild European economies and stem the spread of communism. In fact, Marshall is one of a few incredible leaders in our nation’s history whose attributes and competencies are worth emulating in today’s ever-changing environment. Continue reading →
D-day arrived on June 6, 1944 and the cross channel assault, part of Operation Overlord, began and changed the course of World War II. Because no operation ever goes as planned, the leaders that day were faced with a barrage of unimaginable decisions in order reduce the loss of life yet protect the goals of the operation.
During his address to the House of Commons that same day, Winston Churchill expressed his confidence in the Supreme Commander’s abilities. Addressing the weather and other unpredictable aspects of both the airborne and amphibious landing operations he said:
General Eisenhower’s courage is equal to all the necessary decisions that have to be taken in these extremely difficult and uncontrollable matters.
These decision amid extremes were likely what General Eisenhower had in the forefront of his mind when he proclaimed that
When you come right down to it, leadership is, of course, being exerted all of the time in the capacity of boosting morale, confidence, and all that, but leadership is most noticeable when tough decisions have to be made…. But making decisions is the essence of leadership; that is, handling large problems whether at war or peace. (As recorded in a personal interview by Edgar P. Puryear, May 2, 1962)
These decisions are the unglamorous part of being a leader the public rarely sees. Even though they may become routine, even in rough situations, decisions are rarely made between two clear choices.
The choice of timing the invasion is a good example of huge decisions made on unclear information. The allied forces had just a few days each month when all of the tide and moonlight conditions were optimal for the landings. However, when the first dates arrived the weather was poor. With assurances but not guarantees the conditions would improve General Eisenhower made the decision to commence operations, setting D-day to the 6th of June. Had he decided to delay (a very safe decision) the next window of opportunity was two weeks away (the weather was worse on those days). To accentuate how unclear the weather predictions were, the Germans believed the weather was too poor for operations making allied attack improbable. So most leaders were gone and many troops were given leave.
The leadership lessons from D-day:
1. Leadership is difficult work.
2. Decisions making is the essence of leadership
3. Decisions are never clear
4. Leaders are lonely – ultimately only one person decides
I learned that leadership is hard. Leadership sounds easy in the books, but it is quite difficult in real life. I learned that leadership is difficult because it is a human interaction and nothing, nothing is more daunting, more frustrating more complex than trying to lead men and women in tough times.
I learned that you won’t get a lot of thanks in return. I learned that you shouldn’t expect it.
I learned that the great leaders know how to fail. If you can’t stomach failure, then you will never be a great leader.
Admiral William Harry McRaven, US Special Operations Command, in a speech at the United States Military Academy, January 18, 2014