Leadership In The Shadows

Bibliographic Content

Kyle Lamb, SGM (Ret)

2014

Trample and Hurdle

Kindle, Paperback (‎ 252 pages), Audible (5hrs:7min)

Synopsis from Author

Organizations succeed or fail based on the quality of their leaders. Even in the technology-soaked 21st Century, leaders are still the key element in the accomplishment of your mission. Leadership in the Shadows describes, in detail, a set of leadership principles which have been proven in the most challenging conditions America has faced over the last two decades. Drawn from real-life experiences, SGM (R) Lamb's lessons will give you the tools and insight to raise your leadership skills to the next level. Whether you're in the corporate world, military, or law enforcement, the knowledge in Leadership in the Shadows will help guide your team to mission success.

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No matter the game you play, whether or not it includes life-and-death situations, leadership is very similar. The repercussions that develop from a poor decision in a business setting may not involve life and death situations as we see in a law enforcement or military leadership setting. However, in business poor leadership decisions can have severe downstream effects, both monetarily and professionally. People’s livelihoods are still at stake. I will continue to discuss leadership as though your life depended on it. (pg 19)

Summary of Book from War Is My Business

As one of the most actively engaged militaries on the face of the Earth with a highly educated body of professionals, there is no lack of published works on leadership to be produced by our warfighters. This book can be added to that list of tried and tested leadership manuals. It adds to the wealth of military principles, concepts, and tenets that have already been proven in combat and replicated in the business sector.


Some may wonder why we need more of the same military leadership principles in print if others have already written about some of these concepts - why do we need more? For two very important reasons, 1) it allows you to view principles and concepts from a new perspective, and 2) that reoccurring principles or concepts might actually be a principle that is based on some human truth and not a misinterpretation of unique environmental conditions.


This book is not intended to be a war story. There are plenty of those on the shelves already. This book is intended to be read and re-read with the hope you get at least a morsel of leadership knowledge by reading how I have succeeded or failed in my quest to be a good follower and a great leader. (pg 1)


That being said, there is an aspect of this book that is different from others on the market. The structure of these morsels is short and to the point - very much an element of military writing - brevity, and clear purpose. While other military leadership books are full of narrative and exposition that eventually lead to the discussion of the topic at hand, this author is able to discuss and closeout topics in as little as 3-5 pages on many of the chapters.


Additionally, at the close of every chapter, he has placed a “lessons learned” section that provides a bulleted, single-sentence wrap-up of the topics covered in that chapter. For me personally, I am the type of person that not only underlines concepts in a book, but I also write out my thoughts in the margins and then rewrites all those thoughts at the white space at the end of a chapter - a wrap up of my own. I was pleasantly surprised that the author already did this for me. For the majority of this book, I didn’t need to write any notes at the chapter’s close, as the author’s summation of his own points was sufficient. It makes referring back to the concepts of each chapter much easier later down the road - such as the writing of this review.


But for this review, we will dig into one section of Leadership In The Shadows that I think provides great value and insight into the book.

The Mission

One of the core imperatives of leadership is to accomplish the mission. If the mission is unclear or, even worse, unknown, the chances of accomplishing it are close to zero. Given this, the ability of a leader to select, define, and then refine his mission is critical. (pg 109)


Be it a military or business organization, the mission is the purpose for its existence. You might have important goals that you want to achieve alongside your purpose or even a more strategic long-term objective you are seeking, but it is the mission that keeps your organization sustainable.


It is the leader’s duty to ensure that the mission is clearly defined and differentiated from any additional or complementary goals. This is to ensure that we don’t misconstrue the success or failure criteria of many, potentially competing, interests. An example the author provides involves a desire that practically every military leader holds, and that is to bring all of their people back home alive and unharmed. This is not the mission, but simply a desirable outcome while accomplishing the actual mission, but may ultimately be improbable given the nature of actual combat operations where risk can’t be avoided, only mitigated. If the mission calls for the destruction of an enemy force, holding some key terrain, or supporting the action of an adjacent friendly unit, then the desire to avoid casualties might put at risk the success of the mission.


Similarly, in business, what is its mission or purpose? You may hear a paraphrase of Peter Drucker saying that the purpose is to “create a customer,” and that customer satisfaction, profits, or positive social or environmental change is merely an additional goal or objective to creating a customer. While I would argue that the purpose is to create a customer while making a profit, otherwise I would call it non-profit instead of a business, regardless, being able to clearly define and differentiate your business’s mission and its goals allow you to effectively determine which criteria needs to adjust to accomplish your ultimate mission.


To quote a song lyric I am currently listening to as I write this review, “Freedom is calling, to all men who bend their will.” Which, depending on the listener’s interpretation, follows the Jocko Willink saying of “discipline equals freedom.” You must identify what you truly want, and ensure that those extraneous things don’t prevent you from achieving it. For example, being financially free means not freely driving yourself into crippling debt. Bend your will to achieve your will, so to speak.


Once you have a well-defined and clear mission, you are able to develop lines of effort for all your objectives that work towards your desired ends. Working through a course of action that allows the people of an organization to unify their efforts and take initiative towards these ends means that the organization can achieve great results without leadership having to manage every person and function directly. But this can only be done if you prevent internal and external forces from unrelated politicking.


Take a hard look at your organization. It doesn’t matter if you work in the military, the government, or the civilian sector; you can make a difference by choosing the right path. Don’t get lured into political and bureaucratic buffoonery. Give your team a mission, supervise, and watch them blow things off the chart. You’ll be able to stand back and be proud of what you have accomplished. (pg 122)


You and your people only have so much time in the day and resources on hand to accomplish tasks – to work towards achieving objectives – to move along your lines of effort towards the end. Adding extraneous tasks, functions, departments, or people that don’t help the organization achieve its mission is, by their existence, counter to military and business interests. Without having those missions and objectives laid out in plain language, it would be difficult to identify those elements that might derail your efforts.


Naturally, some elements of political interference will force your organization to comply in some way. Some industry requirement for mandatory training, or implementation of some function for non-mission related accountability, regardless of what form it may be, your knowledge of your mission and what supports or doesn’t support your accomplishment of objectives, means that you are able to fight extraneous change so that its impact on your operations is minimal, if not negligible. By protecting the organization you are able to keep it moving towards mission accomplishment while protecting management and personnel from the morale loss and disenfranchisement that results from compelled action that serves little to no purpose.


This isn’t to say that your mission or goals are set in stone, only that it guides the direction of your organization towards the desired end. When we determine ends and the lines of effort we develop to reach those ends it’s based upon our current understanding of the environment and the conditions that make it so. What happens when our understanding is incomplete or the conditions change over time?


As you move your unit towards the accomplishment of this mission, roadblocks or changing situations may cause a change. Being hard-set on sticking with the original plan, regardless of changing circumstances, could actually cause you to fail. Therefore, analyzing the task at hand and deciding if the risk outweighs the reward is an important leadership trait to possess. (pg 129)


So, while moving towards the accomplishment of your mission and goals, being able to deviate slightly means you are able to keep the organization viable, maintain its purpose, while still making a movement towards the desired end. Being able to know how much one can deviate from the initial metrics of established mission objectives, and still make positive movement will require everyone to be on board and what positive movement may look like. This is where a clear intent for the business can help.


The importance of the commander's intent, from a purely practical view, is this: here is what I want done at the end of the day. He or she is not telling you how to conduct that mission, or when, but what they want the battlefield to look like at its completion. (pg 125)


This intent includes those objectives that help the mission move forward. By understanding a boss's intent, the subordinates are able to adjust their systems and processes as the environment changes as they work towards achieving the intent. Ultimately, laying out the mission, its objectives, preventing operational interference, maintaining flexibility to changing conditions, while focusing on the leader’s intent will improve the long-term viability of the business.


It is from these few points that the author, Kyle Lamb, makes gives you a glimpse at some of the concepts and principles he has developed during his years in the Special Forces community. While these only cover the discussion of "The Mission," naturally, there is much more to the author’s book that lays out many different principles and concepts that you as the reader can utilize. As previously mentioned, this book is straight to the point, covering many different concepts and principles in as few words as necessary to get that point across. Other than this really short section on mission principles the author goes into greater detail on things such as leadership traits that make an effective leader of an organization as well as the criteria for selecting future leaders that you may promote within your organization. It is a short read, no doubt, but its shortness belies the value that one gets from reading all of these concepts and principles without all the additional fluff one finds in other books on leadership.


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