Archive for the Leadership Category

Top Gun – Still Flying High after 30 Years

Posted in Current Affairs, Leadership, Naval Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2016 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

 

I was 17-years-old and a junior in high school in the first half of 1986. The United States was at the height of the Cold War.  President Ronald Reagan’s strategic plan to improve the capabilities of naval forces, known as the 600-ship Navy, was gaining momentum.  And, the nation came together to mourn the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger, mission STS-51-L, as its crew of 7 astronauts perished, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.  Being proud to be an American in the strongest, most spirited nation in the world was common back then.

During that same time, while most of my classmates were taking SAT’s and planning their future, I was taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB); the test used to determine qualification for enlistment in the United States Armed Forces.  Influenced by my uncle, Thomas Aulenbach, a 1963 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, my ambition was to join the United States Navy.

It was a deep sense of pride, and a desire to be part of something greater than myself, that drove me to make the best and most important decision of my life; to join the world’s greatest navy, and to reach out to live my dreams.  I entered into a Naval Reserve program known as The Naval Reserve Sea Air Mariner Program (SAM).  This program allowed me to be one of very few to ever join the Navy in my junior year of high school, go to basic training in the summer after my junior year, then drill one weekend a month at a local Naval Reserve center during my senior year of high school.

There were a few other things that further stoked my pride and ambitions to join the Navy back in those days.  I remember sitting in my recruiter’s office hearing Lee Greenwood’s ‘God Bless the USA,’ which was rapidly becoming the country’s unofficial national anthem.  It seemed like it was playing on repeat, ringing in my ears over and over again.  Or, maybe it was just a clever recruiting tactic; one that was working.  I still get an overwhelming emotional feeling each time I hear it; no different from hearing any other patriotic tune.  To this day, that song remains near the top of my list of all-time favorites.

One month before I left for boot camp, on May 16, 1986, the iconic movie, Top Gun, opened in theaters.  Starring Tom Cruise, playing the role of Lieutenant Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, Top Gun would become one of the most endearing military movies of all time.  From its opening scene (may I opine: The best opening scene to a movie ever!), to it victorious ending, this movie is jam-packed with great action and music.

Top Gun is about the former United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, at what was then called Naval Air Station Miramar, located north of San Diego, California; Fightertown U.S.A.  The film glamorizes the life of naval aviators by portraying them as cocky, highly competitive hotshots driven to be the best of the best among all Navy fighter pilots.

* Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar is now known as Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS Miramar). The United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) was merged into the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at NAS Fallon, Nevada, and is now known as the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program (SFTI program). The program is intended to teach fighter and strike tactics and techniques to selected Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers who return to their operating units as surrogate instructors.

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Related Content:  Top Gun 30 Years Ago via The Sextant (U.S. Navy History)

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Have Some Fun:

Which ‘Top Gun’ Character Are You?

Quiz #1          Quiz #2          Quiz #3          Quiz #4

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Call Sign Generator

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Top Gun puts viewers into the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat for the thrill and adrenaline rush of flying one of the Navy’s most maneuverable fighter jets.  The film has had a cult following in its 30 years since it’s release, and continues to motivate anyone who has been in or around the Navy, particularly those who aspire to become fighter pilots.  Last year, it was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, joining only 675 other films for that designation.

The movie’s music, with songs on the original soundtrack like Danger Zone (Kenny Loggins), Take My Breath Away (Berlin), Mighty Wings (Cheap Trick), and other songs featured in famous scenes, such as Great Balls of Fire and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin, remain as timeless as the movie itself.  When they’re played on the radio, there’s no question that they came from Top Gun.

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Related Content:  Top Gun at 30: A Retrospective from Two Naval Aviators via War on the Rocks

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The Pentagon Goes Hollywood

It was the Navy’s cooperation that put the planes in the picture. The producers paid the military $1.8 million for the use of Miramar Naval Air Station, as well as four aircraft carriers, about two dozen F-14 Tomcats, and a few F-5 Tigers and A-4 Skyhawks; some flown by real-life top-gun pilots.  The dogfight scenes were carefully choreographed by experienced military pilots, and a some of the movies most memorable scenes were meticulously researched for their realism and authenticity.  The movie’s Navy and Hollywood connection made real history.

Then, there are those scenes that would just never happen.  For example, Maverick’s tower fly-by (aka buzzing the tower).  This became the symbolic statement by Maverick of his commitment to being a, well, maverick.  But, doing this is not recommended.  You’ll lose your wings, get a boot permanently stuck up your posterior, and you’ll certainly find yourself flying a desk until your court-martial.  So, the answer will ALWAYS be, “negative ghost rider, the pattern is full.”

Soon after the movie came out, there was a boost in Navy recruitment.  Although Pentagon regulations prohibited the Navy from promoting the movie in its recruitment efforts, Navy recruiters could be found setting up recruiting tables in many of the theaters where the movie was being shown.  In 1987, the Navy cleverly released a Top Gun-themed recruitment commercial with “Danger Zone”-sounding music to continue the successful recruiting trend.

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In addition to its excellent music and its action-packed scenes, the movie’s dialogue is immortal.  Comical, hard-hitting and full of power and meaning, Top Gun is full of unforgettable lines, like these:

Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.” ~ Captain Tom “Stinger” Jordan

“Top Gun rules of engagement are written for your safety and for that of your team.  They are not flexible, nor am I” ~ CDR Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Commander, U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School – Top Gun)

“A good pilot is compelled to evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he’s learned” ~ Viper

These, and many other lines, certainly capture the strict discipline and protocol that you would expect from the military.  And, then there are lines that you might use at work just to annoy your co-workers, such as the infamous, “I feel the need … the need for speed.”  Or, there are lines like the ones listed below that are suited for everyday use and have particular meaning (click on image to be taken to larger image via its web link ):

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*Courtesy: The Further Adventures of Doctrine Man (Facebook), aka Doctrine Man (Twitter)*

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Out of the movie also comes leadership wisdom.  Top Gun is referenced often when discussing leadership and team dynamics; a sort of leadership ethos.  This was extensively explored by Bob Jennings and J. Israel Thompson in a series of posts that were written as fictional “interviews” with key characters from the movie.  Links to each of those posts are listed below:

Often in the movie, however, there are those times when a butt-chewing was necessaryThe fine art of delivering corrective action is sometimes garnished with some colorful language.  As the movie evolves, you notice Viper’s style becomes the textbook example of how to deliver negative feedback.  There is, obviously, a right way and a wrong way.

‘Top Gun’ still soars at 30, while shooting for that sequel, which will again star Tom Cruise.  And, although the F-14 Tomcat is no longer part of the Navy’s arsenal, and pilots are becoming more like gamers sitting in sophisticated theater-like consoles flying drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), no one has lost that loving feeling for Top Gun.  It’s popularity continues to fly high after 30 years.  For some of us, it will never get old.  In fact, Top Gun Day is celebrated every year on May 13th.  Why do they celebrate it on that day, when the movie was released on May 16?  Good question.  Here is your answer.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see the movie, I highly recommend it.  If you have, I would be surprised if you don’t feel the same way I do every time it comes on television, or when Kenny Loggins comes on the radio with “Danger Zone.”  It’s a movie where the pilots and the viewer are both on the edge of their seat experiencing the exhilaration of life as a naval aviator.  One thing is certain, the movie puts into perspective our need to call the ball; to know, and be absolutely certain, that we are on the correct approach path to catching the wire in life, career, business, etc.  If we are gliding off the path, we need to know how to correct our approach.  This is the lesson … the moral of the story … that Top Gun provides.

 

 

Character is Crumbling in Leadership

Posted in Core Values, Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2016 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

In military and civilian academic institutions around the world, above and beyond their core curriculum, character is taught and inspired.  In each of the military academies in the United States, as well as college Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs, the purpose and responsibility is to produce leaders of character.  To accomplish this, they incorporate the values of integrity, respect, responsibility, compassion, and gratitude into the daily life of cadets and midshipmen who aspire to become tomorrow’s leaders.

The U.S. Naval Academy’s mission, for example, is to develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor, and loyalty.  They provide graduates who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.[i]  The Naval Academy has a deep and abiding commitment to the moral development of its midshipmen and to instilling the naval service core values of honor, courage, and commitment.[ii]

At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point character development strategy promotes living honorably and building trust.  West Point believes that their approach not only develops character, but modifies behavior over the course of the 47-month cadet experience.  Ultimately, the desire is for cadets and rotating faculty members to depart West Point with the character, competence, and commitment to build and lead resilient teams that thrive in complex security environments.  Most importantly, everyone commits to living honorably and building trust, on and off duty.[iii]

The Cadet Honor Code at West Point:

A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.[iv]

Recommended Reading: Duty, Honor, Country

The U.S. Air Force Academy has the Center for Character and Leadership development, where they advance the understanding, practice, and integration of character and leadership development as a catalyst for achieving the academy’s highest purpose, while also preparing the cadets for service to the nation in the profession of arms.[v]  I think the Air Force Academy has it absolutely correct when they say that there has never been a more critical time to increase understanding of how moral and ethical dimensions interact with the complexities of leadership – not only in the military context, but across many fields of human endeavor.[vi]

The demonstration of moral and ethical attributes are essential for effective leadership as a commissioned officer in the U.S. military.

Those who possess leadership characteristics seek to discover the truth, decides what is right, and demonstrates the courage to act accordingly – always.[vii]  Officers in the military are to epitomize humility, self-effacement, and selfless service.  So, at the basic and academic level, before the bars are pinned onto a newly commissioned officer, candidates are taught the importance of equality, dignity, and respect.[viii]

Aside from all of these foundations for character development from which scholars transition into professionals in varying fields of expertise and responsibility, it seems that the façade of character in today’s military is crumbling.

Recommended Reading: Defining Military Character

The Moral Compass is Broken

In 2015, just in the U.S. Navy alone, there were twenty commanding officers, four executive officers, and eight senior enlisted firings.  In one of last year’s cases, the commanding officer of the Norfolk-based USS Anzio propositioned a subordinate for sex in exchange for career advancement during a “wetting down”[ix] party at a nearby bar.  There was heavy drinking and inappropriate fraternization that evening, followed the next day by an encounter in the commanding officer’s cabin.

The list for 2016 is already growing.  From the firing of top leaders of a U.S. Navy destroyer for allowing fireworks and gambling on their ship, to a Navy officer being accused of spying, it appears that the moral compass for these leaders has broken.

Related: Relieved of Command

How can it be that the moral compass for these leaders has broken?  Why have they ventured off course so far that they ruin their careers, tarnish the branch of service they belong, and betray those who have, up to that point, trusted them with precious people, equipment, and resources?  Has leading by example become so difficult in today’s complex military environment that doing the right thing has become challenging?

In an article on the Military Times website, Andrew Tilghman reported that the Pentagon’s force-wide look at misconduct among senior military officers, and the efforts to prevent it, found that the Navy and Air Force lag behind in professionalism, while the Army and the Marine Corps have a very mature profession of arms.  Rear Admiral Margaret “Peg” Klein, the defense secretary’s senior advisor for military professionalism, attributes the Army and Marine Corps’ success to sending junior officers into leadership positions, and their professional identity is learned very early in their careers, where they quickly learn the importance of trust, humility, integrity, and empathy.

Not only are officers and non-commissioned officer’s responsible for upholding their own ethical behavior, they are responsible for instilling morals in their subordinates.

It seems the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality is a growing epidemic throughout the ranks.  Maybe it’s time for the Pentagon to conduct an ethics stand down to reach every service member from four-star rank down to the recruit in basic training, similar to what the Marine Corps did a few years ago, to emphasize code of conduct and core values.  But, will that really begin the process to reduce and eliminate the problem?

Retired Army colonel, David S. Maxwell, Associate Director for Security Studies at Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, in an article about the growing concern over top military officers’ ethics, was quoted saying, “Faced with stress, and a very complex combat environment, people make mistakes.”  Andrew Bacevich, professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University, in an article asking if recent ethics and sex scandals undermine integrity of the officer corps, said “The truth is just because people are wearing stars, doesn’t mean they are immune from human frailties.”  Are these legitimate reasons for these ethical lapses in judgement, or merely excuses?

Character is the foundation upon which all leadership traits are built.

Moral and ethical behavior is truly where one’s leadership becomes the bedrock of who we are as individuals, and as leaders.  Its strength comes from the fortitude to always do our best, and to always do what is right, no matter what may lure us away from making the right decision.  The four cornerstones of this foundation are the values of integrity, respect, responsibility and professionalism.  Or, to use a different and more common metaphor, these become the four points on the moral compass.  They are the core values of a leader that lead to uprightness and success.

No matter what our challenges happen to be, either driven by stress or human urges, we must strive to reach deep within ourselves to overcome the temptation to make poor decisions; no matter if we are in uniform downrange, or in daily life with our family or friends.  Our country, society, superiors, peers, subordinates, family, and friends are relying on our steady and consistent moral courage to translate into professional decorum and behavior; always.

Many respected military leaders of the past espoused the vitally important qualities of a leader.  Lieutenant General John A. Lejeune, the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps said, “Leadership is the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding, and moral character that enables a person to inspire and control a group of people successfully.”  Among General Douglas MacArthur’s 17 Principles of Leadership, which essentially acts as a leader’s self-assessment questionnaire, there is this question: “Am I a constant example to my subordinates in character, dress, deportment and courtesy?”[x]

An excerpt from the West Point Cadet Prayer reads, “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole truth can be won.  Endow us with the courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”[xi]

The trailhead to success was clearly identified to us early in our lives and careers.  Ultimately, it became our responsibility to continue to travel along a wholesome path.  But, at some point in our lives, we find ourselves at the intersection of human-nature and temptation, faced with the challenge to make the right decision.  When this happens to you, which way will you go?  Will your moral compass point you in the right direction?  Is the foundation of your character strong enough to stand firm?  Or, will your character crumble to the ground?  What will your leadership legacy be?  Lessons learned through life’s experiences, as well as the awareness and attentiveness to your surroundings, should always provide you the sense of direction necessary to make the right decision.  You must have courage, faith and confidence that your moral compass will point you in the right direction; the path toward the intersection of character and integrity.  If your ultimate destination is success and victory, follow your moral compass.[xii]

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Notes:

[i] U.S. Naval Academy. Mission of USNA. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usna.edu/About/mission.php.

[ii] U.S. Naval Academy. Character Development. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usna.edu/Admissions/Military-Preparation/Character-Development.php.

[iii] The William E. Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic. “Character Development Strategy – Live Honorably and Build Trust.” Letter by Robert L. Caslen, Jr., Lieutenant General, U.S. Army, Superintendent, United States Military Academy: Page 3. Dec. 2014. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usma.edu/strategic/shared documents/west point’s character development strategy(digital-2-4-15).pdf.

[iv] “The Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic – Honor.” The Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic – Honor. Web. Accessed 17 Apr. 2016.  http://www.usma.edu/scpme/sitepages/honor.aspx

[v] “Center for Character & Leadership Development Homepage.” Center for Character & Leadership Development Homepage. U.S. Air Force Academy. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usafa.edu/Commandant/cwc/.

[vi] U.S. Air Force Academy, Journal of Character & Leadership Integration (JCLI). Center for Character Development – Publications Archive. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usafa.edu/Commandant/cwc/cwcs/docs/cwcsPub_Archive.cfm.

[vii] “Building Capacity to Lead – The West Point System for Leader Development.” Officership & Perspective: Our Targets for Leader Development | Leader of Character: Page 18. United States Military Academy. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usma.edu/strategic/siteassets/sitepages/home/building the capacity to lead.pdf.

[viii] Wilson, Dale R. “Schofield’s Definition of Discipline.” Command Performance Leadership. Command Performance Leadership, 23 Feb. 2012. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. https://commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/schofields-definition-of-discipline/.

[ix] A ‘Wetting Down’ is a ceremony or event held congratulating a newly promoted officer.  More information can be found here:  “Social Customs & Traditions of the Sea Services.” Functions & Traditions – Wetting-Down Parties: page 14. Naval Services FamilyLine. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. htttp://www.goatlocker.org/resources/cpo/downloads/customs.pdf

[x] Donnithorne, Larry. The West Point Way of Leadership: From Learning Principled Leadership to Practicing it. New York: Currency Doubleday, 1993. pp. 178-179. Print.

[xi] Cadet Prayer. Office of Chaplains. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. http://www.usma.edu/chaplain/SitePages/Cadet Prayer.aspx.

[xii] Adapted from “Pithy Points to Ponder (A Leader’s Moral Compass),” by Dale R. Wilson on the blog Command Performance Leadership. 14 Nov. 2012. Web. Accessed 15 Apr. 2016. Edited and adapted for this publication. https://commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/pithy-points-to-ponder-a-leaders-moral-compass/.

Plan For Failure

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2015 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

“I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”

General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis

We all strive for victory.  Each one of us hates to lose.  After all, it is essential for us to succeed in our daily lives.  We are obviously not living life to fail.  But, fail we will.

As important as it is to plan for victory, it is just as important to plan for failure.  Every ‘battle plan’ should consider all contingencies.  But, victory, of course, hangs on the details, and behind those details are hidden the pitfalls that can spell disaster and defeat.  We often take our eye off the potential negatives and ultimately find ourselves facing the unexpected.  This can easily be avoided.

Last week, we again saw another data breach hitting Anthem Blue Cross.  And, again, many experts are saying that this ‘disastrous’ data breach was avoidable.  When I first heard about it, my first thought was how something like this could happen again.  Haven’t these major organizations learned from other data breaches, such as to Michaels Stores, Home Depot, Kmart and ebay?  Aren’t major corporations taking steps to prevent these kinds of disasters from happening to them?  I can understand maybe not recognizing the unknown, but I cannot accept these companies blatantly ignoring what is going on around them, and to their peers in various corporate circles.  Again, planning for failure is just as important as planning for success.

In a recent blog post on The Military Leader, entitled 5 Questions That Can Save You From Disaster, author Drew Steadman discusses how failure can be avoided by not getting caught off guard by things that could have been anticipated.  As he states in his article, “A few moments of reflection can cue you in to the key indicators. And asking hard questions will force you and your team to acknowledge the situation you face.”  But, what I take away from Drew’s article is that you cannot wait for things to happen, or circumstances to change, before putting into place a plan that could work to avoid failure.  It is important to be quite aware of the peripheral things, because failure or victory are contingent on how (or if) you recognize and react to them.

One thing that I am certain of is that there will be a lot of uncertainty when planning for any outcome.  In essence, failures and miscues can be avoided by taking action based on our anticipation of the known’s and the unknowns.  And, doesn’t that sound familiar:

Recommended Reading: “The Certainty of Donald Rumsfeld

Part 1: Three Reporters

Part 2: The Known and the Unknown

Part 3: A Failure of Imagination

Part 4: Absence of Evidence Isn’t Evidence of Absence

As my youngest daughter, Kassandra, when she hears something so profound, says, “what does that even mean?”  When Donald Rumsfeld first uttered this statement during a press breifing in February 2002 about the lack of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups, he was making a point that there are various levels of certainty and uncertainty based on our knowledge of the facts as we know them, and the facts that aren’t yet clear. [View video of Donald Rumsfeld’s comments HERE]

To better define this, I found an article on SmartOrg by Don Creswell that defined the 3 Basic Sources of Risk and Uncertainty, which came out of a presentation by Kelvin Stott.

My take:

  • We must remain cognizant of those things that we know, while not discounting the possibilities that we think aren’t likely to happen.
  • We need to open more widely the avenues of communication, encouraging everyone to say something if they know something; share knowledge.  Nobody can assume the other knows what they know, nor can they think the information isn’t important.
  • Be Inquisitive and curious.  Ask questions and challenge the status quo.
  • We need to use our imagination, as well as look at the intelligence that is available, to make the best decision possible at the time.

Bottom line: Think outside the box, and don’t ignore the obvious.

“Failure is in a sense the highway to success, as each discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true.”

John Keats (1795-1821) British Poet

In the military, disasters could be due to bad planning, bad execution, bad weather, general lack of skill or ability, the failure of a new piece of military technology, a major blunder, a brilliant move on the part of the enemy, or simply the unexpected presence of an overwhelming enemy force.  But, what bothers me is when defeat and failure occur as a result of a known and preventable cause.  There are many military disasters throughout history that you can spend hours researching and realizing that they could have been avoided.

Recommended Reading: The Five Biggest Disasters in American Military History

I’m not suggesting that we are always going to be perfect.  What I am saying is that paying attention to certain details can make the difference between success and failure.  Being aware and prepared, innovative and imaginative, proactive and intuitive, can all make a big difference.

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) American speaker and motivational writer

As you look around at the people and organizations who are facing critical issues, problems, and crisis,[i] you should view those situations as instructive and constructive. They should, for you, act as lessons learned.[ii]  We can learn as much from other people’s failures, as we can from our own.  Try to recognize what took that person or organization into the direction of failure, and plan to do the things necessary to avoid them happening to you or your organization.

Don’t be smug thinking that these things cannot happen to you, or that they are rare or isolated incidents.[iii]  And, don’t be arrogant in the thought that these things can’t happen to you … Or, that ‘things just happen.’[iv]  Don’t let things happen because you failed to prepare, or you grew over-confident with success. Plan for failure.[v]  Don’t fall to complacency or laziness.

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Inspired by five consecutive Tweets (#5Star #5Tweet) I posted on Friday, February 13, 2015:
[i]     Tweet 1 of 5
[ii]    Tweet 2 of 5
[iii]   Tweet 3 of 5
[iv]   Tweet 4 of 5
[v]    Tweet 5 of 5
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Sources:

Spirituality in War: Victory Through Faith

Posted in Leadership, Quote of the Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2013 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Sunday’s Spiritual Quote

“There is no substitute for the spiritual, in war.  Miracles must be wrought if victories are to be won, and to work miracles men’s hearts must…be afire with self-sacrificing love for each other, for their units, for their division, and for their country.  If each man knows that all the officers and men in his division are animated with the same fiery zeal as he himself feels, unquenchable courage and unconquerable determination crush out fear, and death becomes preferable to defeat or dishonor.”[i]

Major General John A. Lejeune, USMC

from The Reminiscences of a Marine

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The true strength of the men and women of our armed forces is their faith in themselves and in others; faith in their skills, their abilities and their resources.  They must have faith and courage to overcome adversity during the chaos of war and the constant struggles of military life.  Faith is the bedrock of teamwork, and General Lejeune’s quote speaks to the power of esprit de corps, and one’s solidarity and devotion to the love of victory over defeat for themselves, their teammates, their unit, and their country.  Therefore, it is one’s faith that becomes their secret weapon, and prayer is the secret battleground where victories are won.[ii]

Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see.  Through faith we perceive that what is visible came into being through the invisible by faith.

Hebrews 11:1

 

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Footnote:

[i] The Reminiscences of a Marine. Major General John A. Lejeune. Philadelphia, PA: Dorrance and Company, 1930. Chapter Fifteen, Nancy, Marbache, Colombey – Les Belles. p. 307. Hathi Trust Digital Library (http://www.hathitrust.org/). Web. Date Accessed on 10 Feb. 2013. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015008300819

[ii] Prayer Is the Soul’s Sincere Desire – By James Montgomery (1771-1854) – Words written in 1818 at the re­quest of Ed­ward Bick­er­steth, who want­ed them for his book, Trea­tise on Pray­er.  Mont­gom­ery called this “the most at­tract­ive hymn I ev­er wrote.”

Photo Credit:

Lt.Gen. John Archer Lejeune (1867-1942) – Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune website – http://www.lejeune.marines.mil/

 

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Leadership That Is McChrystal Clear

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2013 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

When a military leader hangs up his combat boots after a long and successful career, I always hope that they plan to share their experiences, wisdom and leadership philosophies in the pages of a book.  It has become commonplace in the last two decades for a military officer who has been successful on the battlefield to write a book about their life in uniform (Schwarzkopf, Franks, Powell).  And, throughout history, we have been fortunate to learn a lot about our greatest, most storied Generals and Admirals (Washington, Grant, Lee, Halsey, Nimitz, Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur, etc.) through their own writing and words, and those of historians, biographers, authors, and bloggers who have determined that learning and discussing what made these military officers great leaders is valuable knowledge to current and future leaders and scholars.  You can find an assortment of these books on the internet.

General Stanley McChrystal (U.S. Army Retired) has written a memoir entitled, “My Share of the Task,” adding to the list of many great military leaders whose life in uniform has been chronicled.  Stanley McChrystal retired in July 2010 as a four-star General in the U.S. Army.  His last assignment was as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force and as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.  He had previously served as the direc­tor of the Joint Staff and as the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command.  He is currently a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and the co-founder of the McChrystal Group, a leadership consulting firm.

I have yet to add McChrystal’s book to my bookshelf, so this post is not a review or endorsement of it.  I absolutely intend on grabbing a copy of his book very soon.  Instead, this post is to highlight his leadership philosophy and wisdom that allowed him to climb the ranks of the United States Army to become a Four-Star General.  While most people are focusing more attention on how his career came to an abrupt end following a Rolling Stone article in 2010, I would prefer discussing his leadership.  I think each of us can learn a lot from this warrior, statesman and scholar.

A one-of-a-kind commander with remarkable record of achievement, General Stanley McChrystal is widely praised for creating a revolution in warfare that fused intelligence and operations.  He stresses a uniquely inclusive leadership model focused on building teams capable of relentless pursuit of results. When old systems fall short, McChrystal believes true leaders must look for ways to innovate and change.  From his extraordinary career, McChrystal reveals a four-star management strategy, stressing openness, teamwork, and forward-thinking.

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General McChrystal is the co-founder of the McChrystal Group.  From his time as a commanding general, he revolutionized key leadership principles such as transparency and inclusion; leveraging the power of teams through shared ownership; and sharing a clear vision for winning with an extended team.

He, along with his team at The McChrystal Group, have developed a program called the CrossLead Way.  The principles and operational structure of CrossLead are based on the exceptional military leadership successes of the General and his staff.  The principles of CrossLead are:

1. Trust

Build a foundation of relationships based on trust and teamwork.

2. Understand
Understand the operating environment and your organization while constantly adapting for purpose.

3. Align
Align the team around a clearly defined vision, set of values and an achievable and resilient strategy.

4. Communicate
Force and foster a culture of inclusion, transparency, and accountability through constant communication.

5. Decide
Create shared ownership by decentralizing decision-making and execution to the most effective level.

6. Discipline
Ruthlessly prioritize, maintain a disciplined and sustainable battle rhythm, and focus on what only you can affect.

7. Win
Accomplish your objectives. Succeed constantly by relentlessly assessing and improving performance. Win.

From these principles, the McChrystal Group believes that the collective wisdom of an organization is it’s most valuable resource – that trust, speed and discipline are decisive – that leaders are made and leadership is a choice.  Most importantly, we believe in winning in any environment.

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Since General McChrystal’s retirement, he has shared what he learned about leadership over his decades in the military as a public speaker and lecturer.  His overall leadership premise is how can you build a sense of shared purpose among people of many ages and skill sets?  His answer is by listening and learning — and addressing the possibility of failure.  This blog has featured General McChrystal in the past, but I wanted to again highlight some of the key points General McChrystal emphasizes in his presentations to groups, organizations, companies and students:

1) If your people do everything you taught them to do, and they do those things properly, you led them well. People follow leaders.

2) Leaders can let you fail, and yet not let you be a failure.

3) Leaders build confidence and trust in their people. And, those who you are leading have to have faith and trust in the leader. Leaders have to build faith, trust and confidence.

4) In failure, the leader must reach out to his force and rebuild trust and confidence…rebuilt confidence in the force, rebuilt confidence in the leader, and rebuilt confidence in the seniors of the leader and the force.

5) A leader must build consensus and a sense of shared purpose with his force.

6) How does a leader stay credible and legitimate when they haven’t done what the people their leading are doing? Leaders must become more transparent and a lot more willing to listen.

7) Keep your promises and live up to your obligations; to your subordinates, your peers and your superiors. Be ready to support them when they need you most.

8) A leader isn’t good because he is right. They’re good because their willing to learn, and to trust. If you are a leader, the people you’ve counted on will help you out. And, if you’re a leader, the people who count on you need you on your feet.

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Unfortunately, General McChrystal’s career ended sooner than he or anyone anticipated, but in no way short of victory.  As with any abrupt departure of a high-profile military leader due to controversy, scandal or integrity issues, we should always look at what that person did in their career in total; the quality of the individual, and the successes they achieved.  General McChrystal dedicated 34 years of his life to the United States Army, and his leadership, warrior spirit and patriotism, without question, is what makes him one of the great military leaders of our time.  The military prematurely lost this officer, but the private sector has gained a gem in McChrystal (to use a bit of a pun).  We now become the new benefactors of his teachings, wisdom and philosophy.  Through his new book, we can see inside this man and the principles that have made him successful. , beyond the controversy of the Rolling Stone article back in 2010.  As I said earlier, I intend on purchasing his book, and I think you should too.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

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Related Articles –

McChrystal Speaks Out on Rolling Stone Article (foxnews.com)

General Stanley McChrystal: Leadership Lessons from Afghanistan (Forbes.com)

Stan McChrystal: Trading Shadows for Showtime with accompanying video Q & A With General Stanley McChrystal (time.com)

‘I Accept Responsibility’: McChrystal On His ‘Share Of The Task’ (npr.org)

Gen. McChrystal’s Lessons in Leadership

(cnbc.com)

[Video] Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal on Leadership (youtube.com)

Sources –

Plywood Leadership: Lessons on Leadership from a Warrior, Statesman and Scholar – Accessed 13 January 2013 – Association for Corporate Growth (ACG Global) – http://www.acg.org/

CrossLead Way – Accessed 13 January 2013 – McChrystal Group – http://www.mcchrystalgroup.com/home

Listen, Learn…Then Lead – Accessed 13 January 2013 – Command Performance Leadership blog – https://commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com/

Photo Credits –

Book cover and profile picture – The McChrystal Group via http://www.mcchrystalgroup.com/home – Accessed 13 January 2013

Stanley McChrystal: Listen, Learn…Then Lead – http://images.ted.com/images/ted/1e1176d6968f6b244a1962d6231a5410fa7d8ef9_389x292.jpg – Ted.com – Accessed 13 January 2013

The Leader Who Was General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Posted in Current Affairs, Leadership, Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

We have lost a giant in the ranks of great military leaders throughout history.  General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., who commanded the U.S.-led international coalition to drive Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991, died on Thursday, December 27, in Tampa, Fla., of complications from pneumonia, according to press reports.  This comes as a shock and surprise because this larger than life man seemed to be invincible, never willing to give in to defeat of anything in war, nor in life.  He was a soldier’s general who “embodied the warrior spirit,”[i]

General Schwarzkopf was commissioned a Second Lieutenant after graduating in 1956 from the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He received advanced infantry and airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He attended the University of Southern California, receiving a Master of Science in mechanical engineering in 1964.  In 1966 he volunteered for Vietnam and served two tours, first as a U.S. adviser to South Vietnamese paratroops and later as a battalion commander in the U.S. Army’s Americal Division.  He earned three Silver Stars for valor — including one for saving troops from a minefield — plus a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and  three Distinguished Service Medals.[ii]

Of course, General Schwarzkopf’s most notable and celebrated career achievement was when he was Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Central Command.  In 1991, Schwarzkopf commanded Operation Desert Storm, and a coalition force from 34 nations, against Iraq in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.  It was Schwarzkopf’s blueprint for the defense of the oil fields of the Persian Gulf (against a hypothetical invasion by Iraq), which was the basis for Operation Desert Shield, the defense of Saudi Arabia.[iii]  During the Gulf War, he commanded more than 540,000 U.S. troops and 200,000 allied forces in a six-week war that routed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait.  The sweeping armored movement he employed during the ground campaign is seen as one of the great accomplishments in military history.  The maneuver ended the ground war in only 100 hours.

General Schwarzkopf was a brilliant strategist and inspiring leader.  If there was ever a leader who knew mission accomplishment was about the troops, and not about the leader, it was General Norman Schwarzkopf.

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Brigadier General John C. “Doc” Bahnsen, Jr. once wrote the following about his friend, General Schwarzkopf:

…I have known (Norm Schwarzkopf) for over 45 years, ever since our Plebe year at West Point in 1952.  He was…personable when I first knew him…Norm has charisma that stems from a boyish-like enthusiasm for being a soldier.  His enthusiasm has been his most important professional trait among a number of other extremely important and unique qualities.  Norm loves soldiers and he loves soldiering, and it shows in everything he does and says.  His outgoing personality has made him internationally popular.  His sincerity is genuine.  What you see is what you get.  He has walked the walk of a soldier all his life and he can talk the talk of a soldier based on solid credentials and impressive performance in peacetime as well as in war.

Brilliant intellect and rock solid integrity have been key factors in Norm Schwarzkopf’s development as a charismatic leader.  Being a big man makes him stand out in a crowd, but what makes people remember him is his bright, infectious, enthusiastic conversation.  You remember talking to Norm, you remember him looking directly at you, and you remember his thoughtful and colorful comments.  His sense of humor is well developed [sic] and although he is not overly profane, he can cuss colorfully if the occasion so dictates.[iv]

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The following quotes attributed to General Schwarzkopf are from Leadership Now‘s Leading Blog:

On Leadership Development
You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership. Because you learn how not to do it. And, therefore, you learn how to do it.

On Character
Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.

On Leadership
Do what is right, not what you think the high headquarters wants or what you think will make you look good.

On Courage
True courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job anyhow, that’s what courage is.

On Knowing Doing
The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.

On Success
Success is sweet, but the secret is sweat.

Continue reading Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf 1934-2012 via Leadership Now‘s Leading Blog

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GULF WAR Schwarzkopf – The Victory

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There is much more that can be discussed about General Schwarzkopf’s leadership.  This blog intends to continue to study and discuss this remarkable military officer in future posts.  Since General Schwarzkopf’s death last week, much has been written about his leadership, and his influence on the troops, the United States Army and the military he served.  Below, I share a few of these articles and resources with you.  Additionally, I have interspersed a few (much) older articles and resources that you might like to read and view.  I recommend and encourage you read each of them.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

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Footnotes

[i] From a statement made by U.S. Army General Martin E. Dempsey, 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GENDempsey) on Friday, December 28, 2012. (accessed Monday, December 31)

[ii] God Speed Stormin’ Norman… – Posted December 27, 2012 – http://www.blackfive.net/main/2012/12/god-speed-stormin-norman.html – Accessed Monday, December 31, 2012 – BLACKFIVE – http://www.blackfive.net/main/ ~ Details of General Schwarzkopf’s service in Vietnam can also be found on Wikipedia at Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. under the content Service in Vietnam.

[iii] Persian Gulf War – Wikipedia (Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr.) – Last modified on Monday, December 31, 2012 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Schwarzkopf,_Jr.#Persian_Gulf_War – Accessed Monday, December 31, 2012 – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/

[iv] Leadership: The Warrior’s Art. Christopher D. Kolenda, Barry R. McCaffrey, and Walter F. Ulmer. Carlisle, PA: Army War College Foundation, 2001. Chapter Fourteen, Charisma, by John C. “Doc” Bahnsen. p. 266. Google eBook. Stackpole Books, 2001. Web. Date Accessed on 31 Dec. 2012. http://books.google.com/books?id=F57e_IYaHn8C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=

Photo Credits

Schwarzkopf in 1988 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NormanSchwarzkopf.jpg via Wikipedia Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Schwarzkopf,_Jr.

General Schwarzkopf with the troops – Coaches Hot Seat Bloghttp://coacheshotseat.com/coacheshotseatblog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/NormanS6.jpg via “Coaches Hot Seat Quote of the Day – Friday, June 3, 2011 – General H. Norman Schwarzkopf”http://coacheshotseat.com/coacheshotseatblog/archives/6089

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HIGHLY RECOMMENDED CONTENT

A Great Warrior Passes (seanlinnane.blogspot.com)

Statement on behalf of McHugh, Odierno on passing of Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf (army.mil)

Schwarzkopf On Leadership (inc.com)

Norman Schwarzkopf: 10 Quotes on Leadership and War (forbes.com)

[VIDEO] Schwarzkopf on Leadership: 50th Anniversary of D-Day (cultureunplugged.com)

[VIDEO] Schwarzkopf Speech to (West Point) Corps of Cadets 5/91 (Part 1) (Schwarzkopf speech upon his return to West Point shortly after the end of Desert Storm) (youtube.com)

[VIDEO] Schwarzkopf Speech to (West Point) Corps of Cadets 5/91 (Part 2) (Schwarzkopf speech upon his return to West Point shortly after the end of Desert Storm) (youtube.com)

[VIDEO] Schwarzkopf Speech to (West Point) Corps of Cadets 5/91 (Part 3) (Schwarzkopf speech upon his return to West Point shortly after the end of Desert Storm) (youtube.com)

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Related Articles

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, coalition forces leader during Persian Gulf War, dies (foxnews.com)

Norman Schwarzkopf Dead: Retired General Dies At 78 (huffingtonpost.com)

Desert Storm commander Norman Schwarzkopf dies (bigstory.ap.org)

Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. commander in Gulf War, dies at 78 (reuters.com)

Remembering Gulf War Commander Norman Schwarzkopf (pbs.org/newshour)

EDITORIAL: Stormin’ Norman, a general for all times (lehighvalleylive.com/opinion)

Leadership (further) Defined

Posted in Leadership with tags , , , , , on December 17, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

My last post has inspired dialogue on this blog, other blogs (here, here and here), and on Twitter.  Obviously, the definition of leadership, and the debate over what is the best, or most proper, definition continues.  If you haven’t read my last post, please read it before reading this post.  Here’s the link ==> Leadership Defined.

Once I publish a post, I share it on the various social media platforms I participate, such as on Twitter and in various discussion groups on LinkedIn.  I posted Leadership Defined in the LinkedIn group, Brilliant Manoeuvres[1]: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles, which was started by Richard Martin, author of a book by the same name as the group; Richard also has a blog, Exploiting Change, and can be found on twitter @boldleadership.  Soon after I shared my post in that group, it was commented on by Ned Gravel, who is principal at MOTIVA Training, a Canadian company, and was a Major in the Canadian Armed Forces, where he served for 21 years.  What transpired, as a result of his comment, has become the premise of this blog post.  My reply elaborates on the discussion of the definition of leadership, and expands on the post I wrote last week.  It is an important postscript.

Below is Ned’s comment, and my response to his comment.  Once I replied to Ned’s comment, I realized the breadth and value of this discussion he and I had, and the answer I provided Ned according to his opinion.  Here is that conversation:


I am going to have to disagree with you on some of this. I think you may have overextended the definition I, and many of my colleagues who wore a uniform for a living, grew up with. For us, leadership is: “the art of motivating people to achieve a common goal.” Nothing about obedience, or command, or directing thoughts.

It is only about the people and the goal is a common one, sometimes developed commonly, sometimes not, but motivated to be accepted by the entire group.

A common misconception about military leadership is that everyone will simply obey orders and that is that. Orders delivered to motivate team members so that they become the common goal is the focus of good military leadership. Orders delivered to simply direct others is a failure of leadership. If we have kept our team abreast and engaged them in what we are trying to do – the orders issued can already be understood and accepted by the majority of our team members. They can then succeed without our further involvement.

Even beyond this, good leaders do not just create successful teams and followers, they create more successful leaders from within their teams.

I apologise [sic] for the apparent disagreement. Just my 0.02.

Below is a modified version of my response:

Dale R. WilsonNo need to apologize, Ned.  We’re having a discussion to share ideas.  I tried to write my blog post at a basic level to define leadership.  Maybe this reply to your comment can clarify my philosophy.

I agree with what you are saying.  But, my definition is based on intent…that leads to action…to improvise, adapt, overcome…to change tactics, without changing vision; to achieve ultimate victory.

Leadership is taking your vision and intent as a leader, sharing this vision with your team, motivating and inspiring them to execute the plan, and empowering them with the resources to achieve victory.  I’ll direct you back to my blog post for further discussion on this, as I break it down concisely.  But, for this discussion, I am talking about:

1) Getting the team (organization, company, platoon, crew, etc.) to clearly understand the mission (goal, objective, sales target, profit requirement, etc.) ~ the image that the leader has for the outcome.

2) Ensuring the team understands the leader’s intent, and has the exact same vision, while clarifying with them by asking questions and providing feedback to their questions, and verifying that there is a clear understanding of the end state.

Along with this is the ‘buy-in.’  The people have to not only see the intent/vision/desired outcome, but they must see in themselves the absolute ability to accomplish the mission.

3) Provide the team the resources (tools, training, equipment, information, etc.) to ensure they can conduct operations to their fullest effort to achieve nothing less than victory.  Having discussion is important.  But, in the end, the leader’s vision and intent (with modifications to tactics, from the discussion) remains firm and unchanged.

4) To afford each individual the latitude to improvise, adapt, and overcome; to change tactics, without changing vision, according to the situation on the ground (or at sea, or in the air, etc.).

When the terms ‘obedience,’ ‘command,’ or ‘directing thoughts’ are mentioned, they are discussed in the context of having the absolute necessity to conduct actions, tasks, operations (etc.) towards the goal/objective, without argument, dissention, or modification to the goal.  People cannot change the desired outcome, as it is a fixed ‘destination’ determined by the higher echelon leadership (board of directors, CEO, CFO, CinC, Commanding Officer, Brigade Commander, etc.).  However, when I mention ‘without argument,’ previously, I don’t mean that a discussion shouldn’t be conducted to ask questions, clarify information or offer alternative tactics (or strategy).  Having such discussion is NOT disobedience.  And, ‘directing thought’ is simply ‘selling’ the vision/intent that drives to the shared goal and objective.

I agree with your assessment about the misconceptions about military leadership.  If a leader is simply going to say, ‘this is what I want to see happen…no questions…no discussion…,’ then that is poor leadership, indeed.  As you say, “…orders to simply direct others is a failure of leadership.”

It is because of those misconceptions that drives to the very reason why I write about the topic on my blog (and on Twitter).  My purpose is to write about the subject of military leadership in an effort to change those misconceptions that exist in the minds of those who do not understand the true synergies between military and corporate (private-sector) leadership.

I appreciate your feedback on this.  It is important to share these ideas to provide us the opportunity to dig deeper into the subject.  It is constructive and educational.  In fact, in writing this response, I found it quite instructive and fulfilling.

I want to invite you to read three blog posts I have written that relate directly to our discussion here.  Please read the following:

Leading the Charge: Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom (no need to watch the video…I’ve broken it down on the post)

Decision-Making in the New ‘Leadership Organization’

Improvise, Adapt and Overcome ~ Changing Plans, But Not Changing Vision

Employee Empowerment in the Decision-Making Process

Leadership is a very popular subject, and discussions like this happen quite frequently in LinkedIn groups, on Twitter, and elsewhere on the internet.  Having these discussions, and engaging in conversation with people about leadership, is quite constructive (and instructive), and can help to broaden your knowledge and ability to become a much better, more effective leader.  I encourage you to find a discussion and join in.  Everyone will benefit from your contribution.

I wanted to use this opportunity to thank Ned for having this conversation with me, and his gracious approval to allow me to use our conversation on LinkedIn as a lab excercise on my blog.  I hope that you found value in having this dialogue with me.

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“Leadership is understanding people and involving them to help you do a job.”

Admiral Arleigh Burke

(TWEET THIS quote)

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Soon after I posted Leadership Defined, I posted the following Tweet, which sums it all up nicely.  Within this Tweet, click on the link to a related Tweet, to keep it in context:

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson

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Related Articles –

Modern Leadership (brassbugles.wordpress.com)

What Is Leadership? (landauleadership.com)

How Do You Rate Yourself? (leadershipquote.org)

What Leadership is Not (stevekeating.me)

Footnote –

[1] ‘Manoeuvre‘ is the French spelling for the word maneuver (US).  It is sometimes considered misspelling.  Because the LinkedIn group was started by someone in Canada, the French version (spelling) of the word is appropriate.

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