Leadership: It all starts with you
The Army has hit a real chord on leadership with their “Army of One” advertising campaign:
- Accept personal responsibility
- Keep the needs of the team paramount
- Adopt a psychology of achievement in your personal approach to your responsibilities.
- Take initiative. Make the most of your energy reserves.
- Stay action-oriented and forward-focused. You have no time for dwelling on failure, except to learn from it and move on.
- Adopt a positive attitude, and model it, which is as infectious as the bad attitude of others, and much more energizing.
This is why so many businesses seek out veterans of the Armed Services as employees. It is not (or not just) because they admire hierarchy and take orders well. Respect for authority can be a positive foundation for success, but it is passive rather than active, and not sufficient for being a creative, contributory employee.
Veterans are attractive because they have been trained to take initiative, find solutions to problems, waste no time dwelling on failure, keep moving forward. These are the traits that lots of companies seek in the 21st Century.
Good news: You can create the same mindset in your organization. Adopt this mindset yourself as a “Manager of One,” where the One is yourself. Adjust your own attitude to being forward-thinking and action-oriented in all your professional dealings. Then start infecting your team with the same attitude, and create a “Team of One.” Then start working on your boss to make him or her a “Boss of One.”
Why doesn’t everyone do this? It takes energy. The Army provides plenty of motivation to find the energy to adopt the proper mindset, as you don’t have luxury of negativity in battle. Find a way to inject that sort of energizing goal into your own team. Some ways to do that:
- Keep meetings limited to decisions on action steps: No updates. Those can be delivered ahead of time by e-mail for review.
- Scrap annual reviews in favor of monthly and quarterly check-ins and use these sessions for attitude adjustments (call it a tune-up.) Leave these sessions with action steps and agreements on the results you seek.
- Assess success and failure objectively. Recognize where mistakes were made only because you can learn from them. Never assess blame, a deeply wasteful exercise that destroys trust among team members.
- Pursue the truth in all interactions. Change mindsets away from using the truth as a weapon to punish, and toward using it as a tool for mutual progress.
None of this is new, or rocket science. All it takes is a true, energetic commitment to making it work. Transformational change requires lots of energy, and as a leader of people you must provide the spark each day that keeps the energy flowing. Otherwise it is business as usual, and you are back to square one each and every morning.