WAR IS MY BUSINESS
"The Rusty Rifle Incident"
Department of the Army, 31 July 1990
We understand that, as a species, if we want to accomplish great works and large projects in a timely and effective manner, then we may need to leverage the effort of other people. In the environment of human conflict, in the most simplistic terms, if we want to defeat a threat; be they an individual or group, then we increase our chances of success and reduce our own risks by garnering the support of more people. The threat, seeing this risk as well, will seek to gain the support of other humans too. If you don’t want to submit and you don't want to be destroyed, then, naturally, you will need progressively larger and larger formations of humans willing to fight on your behalf, and this is how you eventually get organized conflict.
Now, there is more to fighting than just numbers of people. Numbers work well in simple barroom brawls where people predominantly use their fists and whatever furniture and dishes are around, to beat each other with. The training of the individual also becomes a factor, as a skilled fighter can compensate for lower numbers. When you bring weapons into the equation then the number of people and their skill in a brawl aren’t the only factors. The dynamics of how humans fight changes depending on what we expect to face and what we are presented with.
While I will go into greater detail on the evolution of combat arms in chapter “2.5 The Evolution of Arms and Organization,” for this chapter I want to talk about those numbers of humans that join us. I want to talk about how we get them to support us. How we get these people to agree to do what we want, to achieve a desired end, even in the face of adversity, injury, and death. What I want to talk about is Leadership!
What Is Leadership?
What Is Leadership?
Let us first begin by laying down a couple popular definitions and descriptions of leadership from various military and business sources to give us a general idea of what leadership entails.
From U.S. Army’s definitions, as stated in ADP 6-22: Army Leadership and the Profession:
Leadership is the activity of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.
From SGM Kyle Lamb’s perspective on what makes a great leader in his book, Leadership in the Shadows:
Quality leaders will have more of a possible impact on your organization than anything else you could ever find. Leaders give guidance to the rest of the team on how to accomplish the mission. They give encouragement to others in the wake of success or failure. Leaders set the example for their people in the areas of integrity, professional knowledge, motivation, and commitment. They act as a coach, a mentor, and a teacher. Leaders step into critical situations and make order out of chaos. (Leadership In The Shadows, Foreword)
From Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s perspective on what makes leaders and their teams great as stated in their book, The Dichotomy of Leadership:
What makes the best leaders and best teams great is that when they make mistakes, they acknowledge them, take ownership, and make corrections to upgrade their performance. With each iteration, the team and its leaders enhance their effectiveness. Over time, that team runs circles around this competition, particularly against other teams with a culture of excuses and blame casting, where problems never get solved and thus performance never improves.
From Peter F. Drucker’s Management: Revised Edition, he states:
Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations… Leadership is not by itself good or desirable. Leadership is a means. Leadership to what end is, thus, the crucial question… The foundation of effective leadership is first, thinking through the organization's mission, defining it and establishing it, clearly and visibly… The second requirement is that the effective leader sees leadership as responsibility rather than as rank and privilege.
In Jeb Blount’s book People Follow You, the author makes an effort to differentiate between the terms used to describe what leaders do to compel their employees to work:
So with some trepidation I embark on a humble attempt to define these terms because there are real differences between leading, managing, and coaching. However, this is not about labeling people as either leaders, managers, or coaches because the functions of leading, coaching, and managing are far too intertwined. To be effective in any leadership role in the modern workplace requires that you be proficient in all three function areas…
- Leading is shaping the workplace through vision, innovation, and inspiration. It is moving people emotionally to make that vision a tangible reality.
- Managing is shaping work, projects, tasks, and outcomes through a system of organizing, planning, and directing.
- Coaching is the ongoing process of shaping and developing people through training, observation, feedback, and follow-up - in real time and on the job.
From Jeffrey K. Liked and Gary L. Convis, in their book The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership they discuss the Toyota approach to leadership:
The first thing to understand about Toyota’s approach is that the company is absolutely committed to its core values. Therefore, leadership starts with understanding and living out those core values. It is not a stretch to say that it is impossible for individuals who fail to live up to the core values to advance as Toyota leaders. The promotion process spends as much time looking at how results are achieved as at what results are achieved.
It should be noted on what the core values of Toyota are to really understand their perspective on leadership. The five principles of leading in the Toyota Way are:
- Spirit of Challenge - in which challenges are meant to be viewed as opportunities for innovation and tests of fortitude. Something to be eagerly tackled instead of hoping it does not occur.
- Kaizen mindset - Kaizen refers to the concept that no system or process is perfect, and that one should have a mindset that something could always be improved.
- Genchi Genbutsu - which means to go and see personally to gain a deep understanding of the issue. Basically, if a problem arises, go see for yourself and understand the problem as the workers are seeing it.
- Teamwork - working with the team in mind and less the individual achievements of a few. It is the team that succeeds or fails in a task, not individuals.
- Respect - care for the concerns and issues of others, not just within the company but also with customers and the community in which the company operates or sells.
So, based on all these different leadership definitions or descriptions (three from the military perspective and three from the business perspective) we start to see common attributes that aren’t unique to either military or business professions.
- We see an emphasis on achieving results, achieving the very purpose of the organization itself. At the very least, achieving desired results is an element of good leadership. Should someone fail to achieve the results they have set out for their team or organization we would at the very least perceive that they have led the group to failure. Results can be for the benefit of the individual leader, or the organization, but as a leader it is to their benefit that the organization succeeds as it is through the organization of leaders and followers the leader is in this position. So, leadership, in some form, is perceived to be related to the achievement of a result, a benefit of some type.
- We see leadership involves various forms of influence on those that they lead. Be it good or bad forms of influence, influencing is happening. It could be motivating individuals through extrinsic benefits (promotion, benefits, bonuses, or public praise) or intrinsic benefits (pride, satisfaction in a job well done, enjoyment in one’s work). It could be through training and conditioning of tasks that inherently get the individual to do a desired action through compulsion. Or it could be through compelling actions by alluding to negative consequences, losing one’s job for poor performance or being retasked to another job. A certain level of voluntary compliance has to be associated with the influence to be considered leadership; in that we may say that alluding that one being fired if performance doesn’t improve is tough-love leadership, or threatening to fire them is bad leadership, but threatening them with violence if they don’t act - with pain or death - isn't leadership at all and more like slavery.
- And we see that leadership, in many cases, includes improvement of the organization itself. Leadership isn’t just about the present, achieving results now, but on the future viability of the organization to continue to accomplish its purpose. This includes developing leaders within the organization, as well as improving upon systems and processes, letting the organization become flexible and adaptive to future environmental changes.
So knowing these are elements many people share when envisioning what leadership is, we can define leadership at the human-level. A definition that is applicable to all human organizations, regardless of the industry or the profession. Therefore, the definition of leadership, as defined by War Is My Business, is:
Humans influence other humans and shape their environments for their benefit.
Now, I know that this definition may seem a little impracticable, even foolish due to its lack of utility, but hear me out. This definition is very fundamental, very basic for how we view leadership itself, and from it we can generate a fillable definition that can be ad libbed for any human profession.
(Leaders) influence (followers) and (improve their organization) for their (desired results).
Now we can ad lib the nouns in the parentheses to our chosen profession and industry; for example:
Field Artillery Battery
Field Artillery Battery
Battery commanders, first sergeants, XOs, and platoon leadership train and motivate their Soldiers to satisfy their individual, collective and live-fire tasks, maintain their equipment and systems, and foster esprit-de-corps in order to achieve a high-level readiness in preparation for combat operations.
The destroyer captain motivates and guides their Sailors to improve and retain their skills, maintain ship processes, and support one another during high operational tempos so that the ship and its crew are able to more effectively maneuver, engage targets, and repair damage in order to increase survivability to support fleet operations.
Real Estate Brokerage
Real Estate Brokerage
Principal brokers enforce standard operating procedures and provide training to associate brokers in order to improve brokerage functions, retain completed and detailed transaction documentation, and provide value-added resources to agents in order to increase profit and eliminate regulatory and ethics violations.
General managers enforce store policies for their workers, balance duties, and handle employee hiring and retention in order to provide customers a quality dining experience, support health and safety, and employee satisfaction in order to generate short-term profits and produce long-term franchise viability.
Team coaches and captains seek to ensure players are motivated, train in their fundamentals, and emphasize teamwork so that the team can sustain a high degree of competitive spirit and competency and reduce rates of injury in order to win.
General and floor managers ensure their sales staff retain a high-level of motivation, engage with potential customers positively and ensure that the dealership is well maintained for customer support, the fleet of vehicles are clean and presentable, and services are well stocked in order to improve overall commissions and generate a profit.
While some of these profession-based leadership definitions may not be all encompassing; my own professional expertise being found in the artillery and real estate, the premise of leadership is rather easy. The leader influences their people and the organization to a desired end. Simple, yes, but it is the influencing aspect of leadership that is the most difficult to nail. It is easy to say that we need to influence others to achieve our ends, but how we do it is why leadership manuals and books are written.
By one’s very existence, they have influence upon others. Causal nature implies that if it exists and can be perceived then it has influence, but intentional influence, especially among humans, is what we are looking at. Aspects of the environment, the market, work-life balance, family issues, and all the other “stuff” that impact our people’s emotional state and decision making will have an impact on the effectiveness of our influence.
Influencing isn’t the sole domain of the leader, either, as followers can just as easily influence each other and the leader. The way one perceives the influence of others when weighed against current conditions; emotional, financial, etc., will impact the results that influence produces in the target. In the case of leadership, we need to understand how our influence changes based on the psychology of those we lead as different people with different thought processes and lives will receive our influence in different ways.
How understanding individual biases, compulsions, and reflexive conditioning can help leaders shape their people to produce desirable results.
Why People Follow Leaders
Why People Follow Leaders
The nature of leadership, the ability to influence followers and improve organizations to some end, is only as important as the quality of the leader’s followership. Within an organization, the size of the leadership is usually small, a handful of senior leaders and/or people with subject matter expertise, that are there to give purpose, direction, and motivation to the rest of the organization. For the sake of practicality, the number of leaders is much smaller, as too many leaders will mean too few followers for it to make sense. A leader unifies the efforts of a group of people and if the group is too small, such as one or two followers, then the leader’s ability to generate influence to accomplish desired ends is limited.
In much the same way, too many followers can be burdensome. A large quantity of followers is effective for leadership positions where control is not necessary; such as a motivational speaker, politicians, or even authors (like myself). These indirect leaders give purpose, direction, and motivation in a more parasocial way. You could watch a video of them giving a speech online about time management, read passages about how to be effective at your profession from their books, or study their exploits and learn from them in your own way. They, however, don’t acknowledge your existence, or at the very least can’t directly engage you like a traditional leader as they may be busy with a following of thousands or millions of people or may, in fact, be dead and we follow the lessons they left behind.
This type of leader is very similar to what is called a transformational leader, one who compels followers to act based on some intrinsic quality; like a moral virtue, social change, revolution, or some other call to action. This is different from the transactional leader, who compels action through extrinsic benefits; like pay, bonuses, awards, recognition, etc. Though it could be said that effective leaders are able to employ both, and historically many of the leaders we see as transformational, at the time they and their followers may very well have been compelled by more transactional motivations.
From Leadership by James MacGregor Burns:
Leadership in the shaping of private and public opinion, leadership of reform and revolutionary movements - that is, transformational leadership - seems to take on significant and collective proportions historically, but at the time and point of action leadership is intensely individual and personal. Leadership becomes a matter of all-too-human motivation and goals, of conflict and competition that seem to be dominated by the petty quest for esteem and prestige.
Think back to many great leaders in history, leaders who we commonly look to for moral guidance and inspiration, these leaders and their followers were themselves likely to be motivated to action by extrinsic benefits as much as the intrinsic ones. George Washington; commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, Founding Father, and first President of the United States, is seen as a transformational leader by many Americans, but many of his initial motivations were for personal honor, prestige, and the glory of leading the revolution. Lui Bang; a peasant constable turned emperor and founder of the great Han Dynasty, was seen as relieving the people’s burden of labor and taxes imposed on them by the corrupt Qin Dynasty, but he began his rebellion as a result of his desire to avoid capital punishment from harsh Qin laws. Popular culture and our desires to look back at our great leaders for that inspiration sometimes blinds us to their more realistic, selfish motivations.
The other type of leader that has a responsibility to directly control a large following; such as a military commander or a business executive, has to use another technique to manage and lead such a large collection of followers and achieve desired ends. And the way they do it is through empowering subordinate leaders:
Only when a leader is in charge of nothing, when he or she has delegated all actions to his or her subordinate leaders, can the leader truly lead. It is impossible to lead a team forward in a strategic direction when you are busy trying to direct and manage less significant tasks that could be handled by subordinates, so it is imperative that a leader utilize Decentralized Command and let his or her subordinate leaders lead. (Leadership Strategy and Tactic 194-195)
The bigger the organization, the more people and resources need to be managed. The more there is to manage, the more difficult it will be to direct and guide everything in an effective way to achieve a desired result. An effective organization is one in which decentralization is emphasized to get people moving, yet is able to keep everyone moving in the right direction. This is where the leader comes in.
The leader of a decentralized organization gives their people purpose, direction, and motivation while avoiding getting into the minutiae of daily tasks. They leave the grind to subordinate leaders to handle, who in turn empower their subordinates in much the same way. By empowering juniors to handle things, the senior is able to step back from the slog, detach their focus and see the bigger picture. They are able to envision how everyone’s efforts are working towards a desired end, provide direction and guidance to alter a current path if they deviate, and otherwise ensure the strategic goals of the organization are being supported.
The junior leader, in turn, executes the direction of their superior in much the same way. They have been given the desired end state by their commander, their superior, and now they give purpose, direction, and motivation to their subordinates. In much the same way the superior sees the bigger picture of the whole organization, the junior does the same with their component of it. This decentralized focus on command and control extends all the way down to the lowest person in the organizational hierarchy who is only a leader unto themselves.
Now, decentralized command, doesn’t mean that leadership shouldn’t get their hands dirty; they can and should sweat and toil with their juniors when possible. When the leader experiences the burdens of the rank-and-file, the leader understands the difficulties of what their people are doing on the leader’s behalf; their strengths, limitations, flexibility, and restrictions, while the rank-and-file appreciate that the leader understands their burden and will likely make decisions understanding the realities as they are on the frontline; be it combat or on the factory floor.
That being said, however, we don’t want our leadership spending too much on tasks and toil alongside their people; though this would promote camaraderie. Their job is to lead, and the majority of their focus should be on the organization itself; making sure people and resources are being managed effectively, efforts are in line with desired end states, different elements of the organization are working synergistically, and they are able to step in and make changes and keep things on track or avert disaster. You can’t do any of this well if the leader is with their people maintaining vehicles, engaging enemy combatants, sweeping floors, selling to customers, or assembling widgets. Yes, do these tasks if you can or when you must, but the leader must be able to step back and assess the whole situation while leaving the tasks up to subordinate leaders. The organization doesn’t directly benefit from the leader, not actually leading. The benefit of leaders is what they give their people; purpose, direction, and motivation.
What Leaders Give to Their People
What Leaders Give to Their People
Leaders provide clear purpose for their subordinates. Purpose gives subordinates a reason to achieve a desired outcome. Leaders convey purpose through direct means such as requests, directives, or orders. Leaders inspire subordinates to do their best by instilling a higher purpose that rises above self-interest. They explain why something should or must be done and provide context whenever possible. Subordinates who understand why they are doing something difficult and discern the higher purpose are more likely to do the right thing when leaders are not present to direct their every action. (ADP 6-22, 1-13)
Purpose is the “why” of what an organization does. Be they military, business, or some other collective of human endeavor, the purpose of the organization is to achieve its desired end state. It is the destination that leaders direct their people towards and to which they motivate their people to reach.
While purpose can have many names; purpose, vision, end state, commander’s intent, promised land, etc., the purpose of the organization is what the leader is seeking to achieve, and the reason they are charged with the role they have in the organization. It is the purpose that the members look towards when they decide what must be done to support their leadership, not simply being blindly obedient, but being loyal to the leader’s intent which should be nested with the very purpose of the organization.
Now, smaller organizations within larger organizations can and should have their own purpose. Indeed, their very existence is predicated on there being a reason we needed the organization to be subdivided into smaller ones. There could be a number of reasons for a subdividing an organization:
- To better manage a large and unwieldy organization into smaller elements with their own leaders who mentor and keep accountability.
- To be given the option to tackle smaller missions with smaller teams, but still function as does the greater group.
- To segregate different functions of an organization so that they are better led and resourced to meet their unique mission.
Regardless of the reasons for why you break up an organization into multiple elements, they each have their specific purpose for their creation, and that purpose must be nested with their higher echelon - the greater organization. The leader’s mission and intent are nested with the organization’s purpose, and that purpose is nested with the higher organization’s purpose. By nesting, I mean the purpose or intent is specifically developed to support the greater effort. The commander develops a mission, an intent, a plan, to support the organization’s assigned tasks, which, in turn, supports the higher organization's mission.
A direct support artillery battalion’s purpose is to provide cannon, rocket, or missile fires in support of their maneuver brigade. Each subordinate battery within the artillery battalion has its own purpose, only more drilled down, such as to directly support a specific maneuver battalion within the brigade or provide general support for friendlies in the area. The platoons in the battery have their own mission nested with the battery, and the gun sections within those platoons have their own purpose as well.
Looking higher, the brigade is but one brigade of many within the division, each with their own mission to support the division. The divisions, in turn, support the corps, who in turn support the field armies of the United States Army. They support the geographic combatant commands who have been given responsibility over regions of the planet, and who support the strategic and national interests of the United States whose leaders are elected by the people. Every organization mentioned has a purpose, has a mission, and every organization down this hierarchy has its subordinate organizations nesting their purposes with the superior. The United States Armed Forces and the Army would not be able to function effectively and accomplish its purpose without this nesting process.
Later in Chapter “2.5 The Evolution of Arms and Organization” we will get into greater detail on this type of echelon structure, but to emphasize the nature of purpose in a modern army; every element of the organization is inherently nested in some way. The individual squad kicking in a door during combat operations half a world away has its mission and purpose nested in support of an echelon of organizations that extends all the way up to the senior leaders of the nation. That is how a large organization creates purpose for its elements, and the purpose that the leader needs to emphasize to their people if they want them to achieve desired ends.
If we take Peter F. Drucker’s definition of purpose for a business, in which “the purpose is to create a customer,” then from the business perspective of leadership to give purpose to followers would be to emphasize the need to promote the long-term viability of the business by developing and promoting the customer base. The end state of a company that has a consistently strong bottom-line is a good end state to have. It shapes how customers are generated, how values impact the business’ culture, how employees are hired, trained, and retained, and how finances are managed.
Business leadership, focusing on the purpose of the business, can work to keep the people and the organization on the right track. It helps by keeping idealogues from wresting control of the business for their own purpose. It helps by putting into perspective client and customer concerns, and prevent reactionary responses that ultimately don’t help the business’ purpose. And it provides leadership to those who oversee finances from assessing whether short-term benefits are worth the long-term costs, and vice versa. How leaders actually accomplish the purpose, however, that comes from direction and motivation.
Direction is telling others what to do. Providing effective direction requires that leaders communicate the desired end state for the direction they provide. To accomplish a mission, leaders prioritize tasks, assign responsibility, supervise, and ensure subordinates perform to standard. They ensure subordinates clearly understand their guidance, while allowing subordinates the opportunity to demonstrate initiative within the overall commander's intent. Providing clear direction allows subordinate initiative to adapt their tasks within the commander’s intent when circumstances change. (ADP 6-22)
We have our destination; the end state, the purpose of the organization, and the leader has determined it to be so. Now, the leader must determine the path to get there. To determine how the organization will achieve its ends, with the people it has, the resources on hand, and the time available. They can leverage the insight of others within the organization, subordinate leaders, subject matter experts, and consultants from outside the organization, however, it is the leader that will make the final call, and sign-off on the plan moving forward.
In the last chapter, “2.2 On Training,” I mentioned that it was the commander’s duty, as primary trainer, “to ensure that the unit is ready to accomplish its assigned mission.” Especially for units assigned direct combat roles, being ready to fight when it is needed is the predominant overarching mission outside of actual combat. In war, their purpose is to fight and win. Outside of combat, their purpose is to prepare to fight and win.
The primary way the commander ensures the unit is prepared to fight is through training, and the way they ensure training supports the end state is through the training principles mentioned in that chapter. The commander understands that in order to fight to win, they must:
- Train as you fight, so they focus on training the personnel, teams, crews, and staff to be proficient in their mission essential tasks (MET) that is expected of them for real-world operations. They measure their readiness to fight based on their assigned mission essential task list (METL), alongside medical readiness and equipment maintenance.
- Have their noncommissioned officers train individuals, crews, and small teams as they will be the ones directly handling most of the personnel and equipment to ensure they are ready. They also leverage the perspective and expertise of these NCOs to more effectively shape training to meet training requirements for individual and collective tasks, as well as METs.
- They shape training to employ multi-echelon techniques, combined arms, and appropriate doctrine, so that the organization and its people are effective in accomplishing its purpose within a larger organization or in support of other organizations. A National Guard mechanized infantry company, if ready and proficient in its METL, should be able to function as any other mechanized infantry company and could be attached to a Regular Army mechanized infantry battalion augmenting a deployed Armored Brigade Combat Team - if the mission requires it.
- They sustain levels of training, train to maintain, and fight to train by developing comprehensive training schedules that operate on cycles in support of their higher echelons, the greater organization they support. Things will get in the way of getting ready to fight and win, and it is the commander’s duty to ensure that they accomplish their assigned non-mission related tasks while still maintaining readiness to fight and win.
These are what commanders do, at least what commanders in the United States Army doctrinally do, to ensure that their units achieve their purpose. This is one of the ways our leadership provides direction to their people and organization. Other forms of direction come in the form of:
- Leader development, training to be an effective leader within the organization.
- Team building outside of training events, to improve camaraderie and cohesion amongst members of the unit.
- Emphasis on purpose as a guiding light to developing courses of action; predominantly seen as the commander’s intent.
When in combat, leaders focus on preparation for specified missions. Missions that are given in support of an overarching plan - a strategy to shape conditions in the operational environment to achieve a desired end. Prior to combat, training was focused on readiness in a full-spectrum of capabilities, from major theater warfare to counter-terrorism, to stability operations and supporting local authorities. During combat, however, the leader is able to focus readiness on specific missions or on operations they are likely to conduct. Attacking and securing key terrain, cordoning a city block, clearing and securing a building, or road convoys in high-threat environments; to name a few.
Regardless, the principles remain the same, only tied to particular training outcomes to support the current mission. There will be opportunities to develop junior leaders and improve the morale of the team, but these will be in support of the mission at hand. One major element that does change between leadership in training and in real-world operations is the tolerance of failure. Failure in training is acceptable, even desirable, as we want to strain people, processes, and systems till something fails so that we can learn where our weaknesses lie, mitigate their negative effects, and teach our people how to work through a failure instead of letting it paralyze them in combat, we don’t want to complicate plans for the purpose of developing our people’s problem-solving skills - the enemy will do that for us. Failure in the real-world, conversely, leads to death and/or inability to achieve our objectives.
When the commander leads their organization into battle the readiness to which they have been building and sustaining overtime will be tested in the crucible of combat. The leader continues to provide purpose, direction, and motivation, but the direction evolves to meet the new purpose. The purpose of a ready and prepared unit capable of fighting and winning wars, now must win the specific type of conflict they are assigned to tackle.
The purpose would have changed to accomplish a unique set of missions. Conditions of the operational environment that they now must affect in order to create a desired end state; influencing their environment to accomplish their purpose. Failure in combat is no longer measured in lost capital, damaged equipment, and bruised egos, but it lives lost and taken and in attrition of resources and wills.
Leadership’s direction to their people shifts to accomplishing specified tasks in support of lines of effort that shape the environment. The environment includes an adversary that will seek to influence the environment as well, preventing us from shaping the environment to our benefit. The leader understands that in the face of combat the environment is constantly changing and can be difficult to truly fathom, so they must be flexible to change and alter the course of action, change direction. But the reason for a leader’s need to provide direction hasn’t changed and that is to accomplish the organization’s overarching purpose - fight and win.
In business, direction is much the same. The business leader guides the company and its people to accomplish its purpose in the most effective way possible. They do it through planning the functions of the business to accomplish the purpose, and then direct the company and its people to execute the plan accordingly. As Peter F. Drucker explained:
We can now attempt to define what strategic planning is. It is the continuous process of making present risk-taking decisions systemically with the greatest knowledge of their futurity; organizing systematically the efforts needed to carry out these decisions; and measuring the results of these decisions against the expectations through organized, systematic feedback. (Management: Revised Edition, 125)
The business leader determines the purpose and plans how its structure and methods achieve that purpose. This strategic plan, as Drucker calls it, is the direction the leader gives to their organization to accomplish its purpose. For him, this is how one plans to “create a customer,” and, for the military, to fight and win.
The business leader understands that their environment is also non-static; though not as chaotic and violent as a war zone, they will need to be able to also change the direction of their business to keep moving towards achieving its purpose. Our competition is like our enemies; they don’t want us to take their market share. The general public is like that of the communities whose hearts and minds we seek to influence during stability operations; we need their support to accomplish our purpose. And of course, our employees, contractors, and suppliers are the same as our military units; if we want to achieve desired ends the leader must give them direction to achieve it.
This being said, military personnel know what it means to follow the direction of leadership and accomplish one’s given purpose; mission success. The better and more proficient a warfighter and their team are, the increased likelihood of mission success we see. It could even mean that lives are saved and injury is avoided, destruction minimized, through better training and a higher level of readiness.
While we know risk can’t be completely avoided, we understand that we can increase the probability of us making it home to our loved ones the harder we work to achieve our purpose. As General George S. Patton is known for saying, “a pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood,” the direction a leader gives is the guidance to produce that pint of sweat. To actually get people to sweat, however, requires the motivation to do the hard work needed to follow the leader’s direction and achieve their purpose.
Motivation is the will and initiative to do what is necessary to accomplish a mission. While motivation comes from within, others’ actions and words affect it. A leader’s role in motivation is at times to understand others’ needs and desires, to align and elevate individual desires into team goals, and to inspire others to accomplish those larger goals, even if it means risking their lives. At other times, such as time constrained or dangerous situations, the leader gets subordinates to do things quickly and explain the reasons why later. (ADP 6-22)
The ability to instill motivation, the drive needed to follow direction and achieve purpose, often in the face of uncertainty and hardship is another aspect of leadership that leaders produce within their followers. There are two ways in which motivation is instilled by their leaders; the direct approach and the indirect approach.
- Direct Approach: This comes as a result of the intentional direction of leadership to perform as directed and accomplish their purpose. The leader could leverage the authority of the position to specify action and to force compliance on followers if necessary. Counseling, mentoring, coaching, and evaluating can be considered a direct approach to motivation, as the follower wants to perform well to please or appease the leader, gain benefit, and/or avoid negative consequences.
- Indirect Approach: Setting the example for others to follow, providing historical examples as context to current situations, or otherwise shaping the follower’s learning environment where they discover what they should do is the indirect approach. Leaders sharing hardships compels followers to persevere as well. Understanding that others may have been successful in similar, or even more disadvantageous, situations can instill a positive outlook. Giving examples for followers to bear witness to and come to their own conclusions of how to proceed is the indirect approach.
Now, most leaders will utilize both in tandem, and in reality, that is the best method to motivate people.
If a leader directly tells people what they should do, but the leader’s personal demeanor is indirectly informing the follower that the leader themselves doesn’t do what they say should be done; the leader doesn’t practice what they preach. If the leader directly says that the follower should do the right thing but rewards another for doing the inverse, thereby setting an example, the follower is indirectly informed that doing the right thing isn’t valued in the leader’s organization.
If the leader displays desirable values that they believe are good for organizations, if they espouse the actions of others as something people should emulate, but don’t directly reinforce these positive characteristics in followers when they are displayed, then the followers may believe the leader doesn’t actually care. Doing the right thing can be difficult, and if doing good things isn’t positively reinforced in a direct way then people may stop doing it. If the only thing that is directly applied is negative consequences to undesirable actions, then we may see an organization that is able to avoid failure and punishment, but isn’t able to move beyond mediocrity.
The mix of direct and indirect approaches creates an environment of both compliance and compulsion. Now, compliance is great to avoid people engaging in negative behavior; people get punished for doing bad things that hurt the organization’s purpose. Compliance, however, doesn’t necessarily work well with getting people motivated to excel, as excelling is going above and beyond what they are told for the benefit of the organization and others; you can’t punish people for doing only what you tell them. You reward them for doing more than is asked, to excel in their duties, and through positive reinforcement we develop compulsion to do the right thing.
It takes time to get people compelled to act in ways that are beneficial, we do this through training and conditioning over a period of time so that doing the right thing becomes a natural process of their duties. In the interim, till we have a balance between compulsion and compliance needed for a satisfactory level of motivation that drives the organization, compliance can be employed by itself.
Now, in the military, to achieve the purpose of the organization, the leader gives direction to their people. This is understood, and failure to do so could lead to disaster, which is why getting people to do things is much easier with the hierarchy providing institutional strength to leaders to make people comply. However, even the military understands that compliance isn’t the best, and that personal compulsion to do the right thing means directions are followed and purpose is met even when leadership is there to force compliance. Compulsion tied with loyalty to the organization defines the word commitment, which is what we ultimately seek from our people. As stated by CSM Eric C. Thom in his article “Leadership: Commitment vs. Compliance” in Army Aviation magazine:
Being committed means you willingly act for a higher purpose, something greater than yourself. Being compliant means you act based on the leader’s positional power. Let’s face it: in a low-threat environment, either one will work. The problem we run into is, by the nature of our profession we do not always live and work in a low-threat environment, and compliance will only get us so far. Commitment by the members of the organization is what will give us the advantage in a high-threat environment.
The methods of motivation, forms of direct and indirect influence as well as transformational and transactional leadership, are the same between military and business leaders. This is simply how any leader, by the position they assume or having the title thrust upon them, influences their followers to carry out actions that shape the environment to arrive at the desired end. However, the ways and means of their methods may look different at the surface level.
Naturally, direct forms of motivation, encouragement to push on, rousing speeches of glory, perseverance, sacrifice, and victory in the face of overwhelming odds are seen in the military sphere to compel action. Stories of warriors of old, brothers and sisters-in-arms, great leaders, and memorials to our fallen indirectly reinforce values and tell our people these are examples to be followed.
In the business sphere, the reasons for encouragement are the same to keep the employee, the follower, motivated to push through to mission success. The veneer of encouragement sounds different, instead of glory in the eyes of their comrades and future generations they talk of excellence in performance and opportunities for advancement. Their stories are those of grit and innovation in the face of naysayers; people with a hundred bucks to their names and a garage who work hard on their new gadget and become billionaires who influence the world.
Now this isn’t to say that the veneer of the motivation is not applicable to both. I have stated many times in War Is My Business that what matters is the fundamentals of the action and not the veneer of it, and here we are looking at the principles of motivations, how it works, and looking beyond the ways of means of warfare and business to the things they both share. This is somewhat understood as we occasionally see business stories and quotes used to motivate military staff; and conversely, stories of military heroes and leaders used in a business setting to motivate brokers and agents. It is the fundamentals that matter, and from that we then can throw on the veneer specific to our people.
The nature of the work and the characteristics of the environment will dictate how you need to apply the veneer of motivation to the roughness that is your people and make them useful in following your directions and accomplishing their purpose. Using the direct approach to motivate action with the promise of higher pay and bonuses can work in a business setting, however, it won’t work in a military setting; especially in combat, unless we are talking about private military contractors or mercenaries.
Modern militaries don’t award pay and bonuses for stellar performance, the Silver Star awarded Soldier will be paid the same amount as the Soldier who works the supply room, because the determining factor for pay is rank and time-in-service. Granted, stellar performance on the battlefield will likely ensure promotion to the next rank when they have met the time-in-rank requisite, however, when the Soldier has to put their life on the line to perform that stellar action the promotion will be the last thing on their mind. Saving the lives of their buddies, following the orders of their leaders, and supporting the organization and mission are what would matter most in stressful times. Thinking of promotion and greater pay are things we do in low-threat environments, much like the low-threat environment of the business world. This is why, when in a peaceful environment outside of deployment, military leaders discuss career development with their Soldiers; the environment allows for it and even necessitates it to keep motivation up and keep the organization serving its purpose.
In the business world, a low-threat environment, these extrinsic benefits, like pay and promotion, are there to keep people’s motivation up. Should the environment, for whatever reason, change then the tools of motivation need to change as well. In an active shooter situation, you would not be motivated to tackle and neutralize the shooter because your boss said “I’ll give you a good bonus and promote you to general manager if you take them out.” However, you may be motivated to act to take out the shooter, if you were told by your boss, “Let’s attack them together, save our friends, and see our children again!” Well, that may be all you need to draw the motivation out and act. Dark hypothetical scenario aside, what matters is the environment will dictate what types of direct or indirect influence will work. As Jeb Blount mentions in his book People Follow You:
People choose to do things for their reasons, not yours - no matter how much you scream and yell, plead your case, or implore people to do the right thing. Unless they see that it’s in their best interest to do that thing they probably won't. The most effective leaders take time to connect with their people and help them see why it is in their best interest to follow certain paths.
Your employees, agents, contractors, etc., will have their own environmental conditions that dictate what motivates them to act. All things being equal; a poor person will be motivated by financial incentives; a wealthy person will be influenced by prestige, and a family person will be influenced by incentives that promote work-life balance and family support. As a leader, understanding your people and getting to know them will help you realize the types of motivation that compel them to act.
All these things being said, leaders provide the organization with the ability to rally its people. Through purpose, they envision an end the organization must reach and promote this purpose in the people. Through direction the leader creates a path to that purpose, allowing the organization to unify and synergize its efforts to reach it. Through motivation, the leader uses compulsion and compliance to influence their people to be committed to following directions and satisfying their purpose, even in the face of hardship.
Purpose, direction, and motivation is what a leader gives its people and organization, however, we must identify what makes a leader able to do this. We must understand the characteristics that make a good leader.
What Makes an Effective Leader
What Makes an Effective Leader
The United States Army uses the Army Leadership Requirements Model in order to, more or less, codify those attributes and competencies that the organization determines is necessary for a leader to be successful. It is encompassed in the phrase BE-KNOW-DO in which the leader is defined by their internal qualities and external contributions to the organization.
It is here that we will go over the BE-KNOW-DO paradigm and its applicability to the business world. Naturally, the model was designed for Army leadership, a tool used to develop ourselves and our junior leaders, however, like many other things discussed in War Is My Business, and espoused by other authors applying their military experience and subject matter expertise, this model is fundamentally applicable to leadership in any industry.
Core Attributes and Competencies of the Army Leadership Requirements Model
- BE: The first two of three core leader attributes of the model focus on individual qualities characterized as Character and Presence. These core attributes become fundamental to the individual’s way of living, and require disciplined initiative to maintain and develop. It is about one’s perception of themselves, and how they sense they are perceived by others.
- Character: This core attribute represents the “true nature guided by their conscience, which affects their moral attitudes and actions,” at least as it is mentioned in ADP 6-22: Army Leadership and the Profession. It consists of not only those values and ethos that the organization has drilled into their very being but in the values that have been instilled into them from childhood to the present. A child raised to appreciate and encompass honesty, integrity, respect, and an attitude of commitment will more easily absorb and take to heart the values of the Service than a person that was not raised in such a character-focused upbringing. Values, empathy, ethics, discipline, and humility are seen as the embodiment of Character for an individual leader.
- Presence: This core attribute covers the external representation of oneself. By one’s actions and words, the outside world is able to fathom the nature, the character, of the individual and understand what they bring to the organization. Military and professional bearing, fitness, confidence, and resilience are the embodiment of Presence in an individual leader.
- Know: This third core leader attribute is all about intellect, the ability to reason and critically think about one’s situation. Whereas the category of BE was based on developing and perceiving the nature of one’s self, KNOW is about understanding how to develop and perceive the environment as well as the people in it.
- Intellect: This core attribute focuses on the critical thinking and reasoning of the individual. Not just the ability to be aware of a situation, but to understand the situation, assess future outcomes, innovate solutions to problems, and determine risk. Metal agility, judgment, innovation, tact, and expertise embody this attribute in leaders.
- Do: This category contains the three core competencies of leadership and is the heart of what leaders give their organization - purpose, direction, and motivation. This takes what the leader has developed in their core attributes of BE-KNOW and applies it to the environment to accomplish the purpose, direct their people and organization, and motivate others to succeed.
- Leads: This core competency focuses on how the individual leader actually employs their previous attributes to influence others and the organization. It is the mixture of direct and indirect, formal and informal, leadership techniques that shape the actions of others both internal and external to the organization. Leads, as a competency, include the ability to influence others, sometimes beyond the immediate organization.
- Develops: This core competency involves the leader’s ability to develop subordinates for future leadership roles. We understand that because of the size and complexity of our profession that we must nurture our personnel to have the competency and drive to tackle greater leadership challenges when the need arises. Preparing oneself to delegate leadership roles, creating a positive environment for subordinates to step up and take charge, and ensuring everyone focuses on caring for the unit and its personnel are aspects of the Develops competency.
- Achieves: The ultimate culmination of an effective leader, the ability to accomplish one’s purpose for the organization is what drives all actions. Having a leader with desirable attributes, great intellect, and fostering leadership initiative within their unit are all geared towards achieving the purpose. This final, vital competency is about getting results, accomplishing the mission, in the face of hardship and despite setbacks that would have discouraged lesser leaders.
Looking at the whole model of BE-KNOW-DO, I must note that it is sometimes difficult to delineate between the Character and Presence of BE and the Intellect of KNOW. Inherently all three core attributes are internally focused, but the way Intellect has been separated from Character and Presence appears purely superficial - at least neurologically speaking. Values, ethics, professionalism, bearing, discipline, humility, resilience, etc.; these aspects of BE, we may say are “within us” as we point to our hearts, whereas knowledge, skills, technical know-how, innovation, and judgment would be associated with KNOW and we point to our heads and say “it’s all up here.”
Naturally, we understand that all of BE and KNOW is in the brain, neuronal pathways that have guided our actions so that we can have positive outcomes. You may display the value of integrity when you could have lied for gain, or display humility in front of personnel - these are two elements of Character and Presence respectively - but you learned these things throughout your life. Just like most humans we have met, all children lack integrity and humility and have to be taught to display them by their families, teachers, peers, and authority figures of society. All of the aspects of Character and Presence could be considered a form of Intellect, of KNOW, if not simply more ingrained into our way of life. Character, Presence, and Intellect could have been rolled up into either BE or KNOW, however, I must admit that BE-KNOW-DO sounds much better and it may actually help us remember these core attributes though it may be a tad redundant.
What really matters is understanding what makes a great leader, how we get a leader to provide effective purpose, direction, and motivation to their organizations, and that is through a mixture of internal core attributes and external core competencies. I will discuss these six core elements of leadership in greater detail, and how we see them in the business world.
The nature of character is more than simply stating the values, morals, ethics, and a handful of qualities that we like to see in people. It is a social construct. They are elements of a person that are good or bad based entirely on the environment they find themselves in. How they want to be perceived by the group, and how the group wants the individual to act. What may be good character in one culture; culture being a collection of norms and beliefs about the world, might be considered bad in another culture.
For example, some cultures apply a set of rules or laws to which everyone is expected to follow; regardless of social status or relationships, these expectations are universal. Other cultures may be more conditional, basing decisions partly as a result of an individual’s social status or whether the perpetrator is friend or family. Professor David Livermore, in his course entitled, Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are, he calls this dichotomy Particularism and Universalism.
- The cultural dimension of particularism versus universalism is the dilemma of how you view your obligation to rules and laws versus your obligation to relationships. This dimension defines how we judge people’s behavior. With universalism, there are rules for everyone. There is an obligation to adhere to standards that are universally agreed to by the culture in which a person lives.
- Universalist, or rule-based, behavior tends to be abstract. With particularism, there are particular obligations to people we know.
- Particularist judgments focus on the exceptional nature of present circumstances. For example, this person is not “a citizen” but is my friend or person of unique importance to me. I must therefore sustain, protect, or defend this person—no matter what the rule says.
- With universalism, the focus is more on rules. Legal contracts are readily drawn up. A trustworthy person is the one who honors their word or contract. There is only one truth or reality. A deal is a deal.
- With particularism, the focus is on the relationship—both with people and particular circumstances (variables). Legal contracts are readily modified. A trustworthy person is the one who honors changing mutualities. There are several perspectives on reality. Relationships are dynamic and evolve.
What matters is not necessarily that any one particular trait related to character is good or bad, but that it meshes well with the culture. Integrity may be important in our society, in fact it is a United States Army value and one I personally follow as a result; however, it becomes difficult to operate in a culture in which corruption is rampant. A person of integrity may see themselves as morally or culturally superior to the person willing to bend the rules and grease pockets, but often the other person is the only one able to effectively get desired results. If the purpose of your organization is to achieve a particular result, but the desired character of your people doesn’t allow it to achieve that purpose; then you will have a very big problem.
Additionally, is some trait that we see bad when displayed actually representative of a person with bad character or a person having a conflict between different values and morals and picking what they see as the best option. In a conflict between integrity or justice and loyalty to one’s friends and family, what we may see as corrupt money and favor-hungry people could simply be human beings whose character compels them to favor their loved ones. A person who steals money to feed their children, though we may see the act of stealing as immoral, we may understand the extenuating circumstances as being justified. However, a person who embezzled funds from their business to buy real property may also be doing it for the betterment of their family, but we may see the extenuating circumstances as not redeeming, the violation of character not acceptable, and less favorably towards their actions.
What I mean to say in this section about character is this. It doesn't matter what your character is, what values you hold, and how you hold yourselves to a particular standard, if it doesn’t translate to effective influence within your society. Especially as a leader where influence is the most important, your character will need to reflect a version of yourself that is most capable to positively influence those you guide towards the accomplishment of your goals and the purpose of the organization you lead.
Back at the end of the American Revolutionary War, General George Washington was successful in preventing a potential mutiny within the ranks of the Army. Officers of the Continental Army, many of whom fought alongside Washington for their fledgling country, had gone without pay and were standing up in protest. Congress was already stretched thin with their own budget, and had failed to provide pay to the troops. In the eyes of the troops, they were simply standing up for their rights of just compensation for their services - however, disobeying orders in this way is still mutinous.
In 1783, in Newburg, New York, Washington went to speak with this group of officers. His goal was to diffuse the situation, and the best way he found was to engage them in such a way that they remember their inherent values that define their character. The character of a loyal and dutiful officer of the Army.
Newburgh Conspiracy by Jane Sutherland
So Washington called for the officers to meet, and made his dramatic appeal. His gestures fitted his argument. I have grown gray in your service, and now find myself growing blind, he told the officers when he put on his reading glasses; in his prepared remarks he reminded them, “I have never left your side for one moment… I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not the last to feel and acknowledge your merits.” They had served together for nearly eight years; they should go together, in obedience to the laws (and to him). With an emotional preemptive strike, he kept potential mutineers from committing themselves irreparably. “It is easier,” he wrote, “to divert from a wrong to a right path, than it is to recall the hasty and fatal steps which have already been taken.” (George Washing On Leadership)
In this situation, Washington was able to convince the officers to turn away from mutiny. It is alleged that when he pulled out his glasses and discussed the loss of his vision from years of service, many were overcome with a feeling of shame. Yes, they were arguing for their just compensation, but Washington’s actions reminded them of their shared service, of their sacrifices, failures, and victories. They could always get their pay, eventually, but they couldn’t get their time back, and their charismatic leader couldn’t get his youth back.
Washington reminded them of what it meant to be an officer, of the oaths to the country that they made, of the brotherhood they shared. He made them realize they were sacrificing their own values, sacrificing duty to their homes and people and loyalty to their commander - for money. He made them realize that, though Congress may have failed in their duty to them, that they should not fail in their duty to their countrymen.
One of the biggest issues of Character as an attribute of leadership is our ability to assess it in others. The accurate external manifestation of an internal attribute could be described as authenticity, or being authentic, and the authors of The Oz Principle; Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and others, provide a decent example of how this may look in a business setting in their later book, Fix It: Getting Accountability Right,
Mark McNeil, president of juice bottler Lassonde Pappas and Company, worked for Pietro Santriano back when Pietro was transforming US Foods. McNeil remembers one meeting where Pietro asked his senior leaders to share a major career accomplishment. They went around the room sharing. Mark had just come off running a successful bakery business in Canada, so he shared how he had convinced a large customer to give him four feet of space for packaged bread in all of their supercenters. A real win. Mark was feeling pretty good about himself until Pietro shared his biggest win: “There are several people who used to work for me who had gone on to significant executive leadership positions, including four active CEOs.” Mark remembers wanting to crawl under the table, not because he was wrong or had done anything inappropriate but because Pietro’s response was all about developing people and valuing their achievements above his own. Pietro’s success was grounded in people, a lesson Mark took to heart. “Yes, results are certainly important, but you should be more proud when folks who worked for you go on to succeed beyond you. That’s your badge of honor.”
The focus on developing others as being a source of pride for Pietro could represent an outward manifestation of many internal values; loyalty, duty, selflessness. As a leader, Pietro was able to influence others, Mark at the very least, through displays of his character. The fact that Mark admits to feeling shame for having stated that his major accomplishment was more self-centered instead of others-centered seems to have created an impression on Mark. Something that may have impacted his outlook in dealing with others and maybe even made Mark a better leader moving forward.
All this being said about Character, it is still an internal attribute that focuses on values, beliefs, and ethics and doesn’t directly impact others, the external manifestation of it does. That manifestation is its own Core Attribute called Presence, which is next in the discussion.
This particular topic has two aspects. In the first aspect it is in relation to Character, the first Core Attribute, and in the second aspect it is about appearance. For the first case, Presence, in a sense, is the manifestation of Character through the actions of the individual. It is practicing what one preaches. It isn’t believing and espousing the importance of values, morals, ethos, and discipline; that is Character. It is living it, especially when lesser people would have succumbed to the temptation to deviate. And it is that element of Presence, maintaining Character in the face of temptation which really defines the importance of military and professional bearing.
These following examples would be considered important elements of Presence through maintaining one’s bearing, and would be promoted during evaluations of the individual:
- Displayed loyalty to the organization and to their team, even when it would have been beneficial to look out for their own interests.
- Did their duty, even when others were shirking their own.
- Showed respect to others, even when disrespected.
- Conducted themselves in a selfless way for the betterment of others, though a selfish course of action would have been personally beneficial.
- Maintained their honor, in the face of appeals to do otherwise.
- Had integrity, even when being dishonest would have been the easier route.
- Had personal courage to do what is right, even in the face of pressure from peers and superiors.
- Empathized with the situation of others, even when they themselves were exhausted and stressed.
- Followed the ethos of their service, in spite of others questioning their reasons.
- Showing humility by supporting the work of others, when taking credit would have been beneficial to self-promotion.
- Had the discipline to accomplish all the above mentioned, even when being lax or self-centered would have been more desirable.
This isn't to say that showing great military and professional bearing is all selfless and non-beneficial. On the contrary, most people like and will prop up people that display these elements of Presence. It may not all be financially beneficial, but it can be socially beneficial to be seen as an individual that maintains an unassailable character, that helps others for selfless reasons, and will accomplish their mission to the best of their ability and against great odds.
Humans are social creatures after all, and improving our image in the eyes of others is a benefit in and of itself. Altruism is a desirable trait, but I don’t believe in True Altruism. There is always something to be gained, even if it is only improved social standing, to do good for others. If you make altruism a part of your nature, if you incorporate it into your character, if you outwardly present these elements in your conduct, then people will more likely respect you, support you, and assign you to higher stations and levels of responsibility.
In the previous story of Mark and Pietro, though the author would portray it as authenticity, by the design of the Army Leadership Model this authenticity is merely the combination of Character and Presence. Pietro’s decision to outwardly display pride at the accomplishment of his previous subordinates shows both loyalty to others and humility in focusing on the success of others and not himself. It was effective in influencing Mark, because Mark believed this external Presence was a projection of internal character; namely loyalty, duty, and selflessness. If Mark didn’t believe Pietro held these aspects of character, the outward display, Pietro’s Presence would have seemed untrustworthy or pandering. Conversely, if Mark thought Pietro had great Character but never presented it in his actions then it may be seen as cowardly, lazy, or hypocritical. When Character and Presence don’t match it seems inauthentic, as if they have a hidden agenda, and makes them a poor leader as their ability to effectively influence others is hampered.
In much the same way, during the Revolutionary War, General George Washington would physically camp with his Soldiers. His command tent allowed him to conduct planning meetings, host guests for meals in the field, and attach his sleeping tent. While the disciplined British Army could afford to have its senior commanders board up in some local home, the American Continental Army could ill-afford to have its charismatic leader away for too long. His presence was very much needed to keep the organization together, but from the perspective of the common soldier, their leader was enduring the cold and rain alongside them. Washington put his finances and upper-class livelihood aside to support the cause this army was fighting to achieve. He may not have been a tactical or operational genius, but his Character and Presence amongst his Soldiers made him appear authentic, so many had chosen to stay at this side; even during the bleakest of times during the Revolution.
The other aspect of Presence is the physicality of it. Physical Presence includes the fitness of the individual, as the military and many other professions can be labor intensive, others would have an expectation of a certain level of fitness. Confidence and resilience are also an aspect of physicality. If you look like you know what you are doing, and it appears that setbacks don’t disrupt your motivation to accomplish your goals then people feel assured in following you.
Do you look like you can be a leader, and do the job? If yes, then you are a good part of the way there. If not, then you will need to work on it, because while the people that know you intimately can tell you are a good leader, most of the world do not know you and when they first meet you will generate a first impression that says otherwise. In this second case you will be constantly having to prove you can do a job to everyone you meet. It is easy to maintain a positive first impression then it is to repair a damaged one.
Naturally, to repair it you need to embody the first aspect of Presence - manifesting your Character in what you do - and in time people will look past the physicality of it. But that takes time, and people may not give you that time. Which is why you must have a strong physical Presence alongside an external Presence of internal Character. Now, the inverse is also a matter of fact. Good external Presence will generate positive first impressions, but poor bearing will in time damage that impression. This is why both are important for a leader. You want subordinates and followers to look to you and stick with you to accomplish the purpose of your organization. The physical Presence will attract them, while bearing - external manifestations of Character - will keep them with you.
The final Core Attribute, and the only attribute in the category of KNOW, Intellect is as I have stated internal to the individual and focused on knowledge and its application. Whereas Character includes those strongly held values, morals, ethos, capacity for disciplined focus, empathy, and humility; and Presence includes both the external manifestation of Character and the physicality of perceived competency, Intellect is fundamentally about problem-solving in the pursuit of Achieving. Achieving being the last Core Competency of the Army Leadership Requirements Model of which we will talk about in a bit.
Again, to restate, the entire reason for an organization is to accomplish its purpose, and a leader’s purpose is to provide purpose, direction, and motivation to others within the group to achieve that purpose. Intellect is that attribute that allows the leader to understand how to shape and deliver purpose, direction, and motivation. Intellect is about problem-solving, critical-thinking related to the environment we see ourselves in, so that we can figure out how to accomplish our purpose.
Now this is a lot of flowery language, so here are the five elements of Intellect and we will discuss how this relates to problem-solving.
This relates to the individual’s ability to “think flexibly.” The environment, be it in combat, garrison, or out in the free market, is full of variability. While we may initially train ourselves and our people in static scenarios to work through our processes and systems to solve problems one at a time, the real-world is not static. Many variables come into play, often with compounding effects that we may not be able to predict. Some of our systems and processes may fail; machines break, people get sick or preoccupied with other tasks, and we may face multiple problems simultaneously. This causes what military planners refer to as “multiple dilemmas” in its ability to confound a response in our adversaries by throwing many diverse problems at our foes to such an extent that they can’t respond effectively. Having effective mental agility is the ability to handle multiple dilemmas and still work towards a desired end.
After a major attack or accident, when the threat has been defeated or handled; or even when the threat may still be present, first-responders and medics will need to conduct triage in order to be effective. Triage is the process of assessing priority in who to medically treat; those that need immediate assistance to save life, limb, or eyesight are afforded priority over those that only have minor injuries, and those that are too far gone to save are made as comfortable in their final moments. The purpose of triage is to save as many people as possible and reduce the overall amount of long-term suffering and disability through timely treatment. It is a problem that needs to be solved through quick and flexible thinking as the medic goes from patient to patient while under stress making life-and-death decisions for many people who are suffering. Conditions for the patients change over time and as the environment shifts around them requiring continuous reassessment to determine if the problem has changed and requires a readjustment of priorities - a new solution to the problem.
Your environment is dynamic, and you may not have a full understanding of the situation, but mental agility affords you the ability to continuously think through problems again and again. They are able to adjust their plans as new information is revealed, as conditions change, as new problems arise, and work towards satisfying the desired end. Leaders are able to take this in stride, helping their organizations weather great change and stay the course to meet the purpose of the organization, even if the course itself needs to be altered in the face of reality.
Dragging Wounded picture by Patricia Dubiel
This revolves around the individual's ability to make rational conclusions based on assessed situations, especially in regards to predicted outcomes of the course of action they take. It requires an ability to not only be aware of things as they occur, but also have the understanding that things need to occur to produce a desired outcome. The problem that we have is that it is difficult to truly understand a situation as we will have to act on incomplete information.
When we conduct mission analysis for military planning, we understand we need to make courses of action based on whatever information we have at the time. So, we not only state the known facts of our situation, but also the assumptions we need to make to continue forward. There are concerns and restrictions that compel inquiries that help turn assumptions into corrected facts, but regardless we start from a position of limited understanding and further develop that understanding as we plan. As new facts arise, we need to determine whether the plan we are developing is still rational and adjust accordingly.
“Necessity is the mother of invention” as they say, and the ability of a military leader to introduce a new and novel concept to solve a problem could mean the difference between failure, mediocre results, or a stunning success. Because warfighting is such serious business and, in a fight, both parties are struggling to find an edge because their literal lives depend on it, you will find in both historical battles as well as romantic interpretations of historical battles, applications of innovative tactics or technology that turns the tide of the fight are commonly discussed.
Modern military concepts, principles, theories, tactics, strategy, and technology were themselves innovative at one point, yet through constant doctrinal reinforcement within a military it became the norm. Early hominids would fight with arms and legs, then they would throw rocks and sticks to increase their ability to inflict damage at distance. They would be sharpened and hurled, first by hand and then by a sling, then a bow, then a ballista, catapult and trebuchet. To counter these types of weapons, protective armor would be produced, first furs, then leather and lacquerware, and then metal chainmail and plates. Firearms were started as simple wooden cannons, then various forms of metal, and reduced in size to be held in the hand of a warrior which was strong enough to invalidate the protective armor previously mentioned. Innovation upon innovation, all being tested and proven on the field of battle at the costs of lives and freedom.
Now we have combat arms warfare within a joint force in an intergovernmental environment alongside multiple nations using lethal and non-lethal weapons as part of a slew of other elements of national power to compel our enemies to submit to our will. Our current way of war will undoubtedly change based on the application of new technologies and concepts of warfare as they enter the real-world. However, all forms of innovation, from our caveman ancestors realizing that a sturdy stick is an effective tool of persuasion to our current adversaries wielding unconventional weapons and tactics to wage warfare that extends beyond the domain of violence, innovation is always about trying to solve a problem. The leader understands that their organization is faced with numerous problems in the pursuit of their purpose, however, they have options in how to proceed. They can apply the tried and tested courses of action that have worked in the past, or they can innovate upon them in new ways. Sometimes, innovation is the only way to make any headway.
A stagnant battlefield where no one has the ability to make progress is very much like a stagnant market where market share is relatively fixed between known competition. The trenches of the Western Front of the First World War became such a stagnant battlefield, where the technology and doctrine were very much equal and the only ground that could be gained was at the expense of hundreds of thousands of lives of your own soldiers. As innovations were introduced; aircraft, tanks, concentrated indirect fires from artillery, it would have great impacts on the course of the fight, and then immediately lost when the adversary learned and adopted it quickly… like their lives depended on it.
Which comes to the next aspect of a leader's ability to innovate, and that is to exploit an opportunity brought about by innovation. It is understandable that it may be difficult to take advantage of an opportunity brought by an innovation as by its nature you may be trekking into a new precedent. Because you achieved results in an unorthodox way, the results themselves may be unique and unfamiliar. You may not know what to do next, which is why the ability to make a sound judgment and to be mentally agile is so important when innovating. You need them to follow-up a success with continued pressure towards your desired end, potentially requiring more innovation to retain any initiative that was gained before that adversary can adapt.
Being a leader is about getting other human beings to do what you want and to work towards a common purpose - the purpose of the organization. As a leader, you will need to work with people inside and outside that organization to get results, and each person or group of people you engage with will have their own perspective on how things should be done and how the world works. Interpersonal tact falls under that Intellect attribute because it does require a little bit of know-how on how to deal with people of differing perspectives.
While we can say that each human being is unique in their upbringing and may come to you with a set of values and morals that you could not know, we can come up with generalizations from the known characteristics of a human being based on their culture and based on the fact that being a human being implies there are some universals that transcend cultures. Within the United States, there are different cultures that can be tied to states; New Yorkers, Floridians, Texans, Californians, Hawaiians, Oregonians, etc. There are cultures tied to residency; urban, suburban, and rural. And there are cultures tied to political leanings; progressives, liberals, libertarians, independents, conservatives, globalists, nationalists, etc. However, generally speaking, they are all Americans and will have attributes generally associated with Americans; individualist, meritocratic, universalist in justice, and punctual.
The focus on what it takes to influence and lead an American can be different than what it takes to drive and motivate someone from another culture. Calls to individualist ambitions and incentives may not work on a person from a collectivist culture like Japan, but to the Japanese, who also share meritocratic principles calls to be more effective in their work and improve their output - an aspect of meritocracy - for the benefit of their colleagues and the team - an aspect of collectivism - can do well. Now, everything is not black or white, one or the other, and each human being can vary in how they respond to these particular influencing techniques. Not everyone in America is an individualist, and not everyone in Japan is a collectivist, and if someone is an individualist or collectivist, then they may shift one way or another based on environmental conditions. America is an individualist nation, but its military, by its nature, needs collectivist people. An American Soldier may be collectivist and authoritarian when they put on the uniform or serve in a military capacity but become very individualist and libertarian when out in the civilian sector.
Now, this is where interpersonal tact plays into the Intellect attribute. The leader needs to know the Character of those they lead and influence in order to have an effective response. As a leader, your American workforce will respond in a particular way to your leadership style, and ideally, you will have shaped your style based on this particular audience. However, if you need to engage with an exterior organization, such as when you outsource production to an overseas company or even if you just open up an overseas expansion to your business, your leadership style will necessarily need to change to be effective. Different cultures will require different styles, as a culture will influence how style is perceived.
Other than this focus on understanding that the diverse nature of individual and cultural perspectives influences the effectiveness of our leadership, another aspect of Interpersonal Tact is related to composure under duress. Naturally, military operations can be stressful, especially under combat, but even in the business sector, regular business operations and trying to improve the bottom line can be stressful as well. Understanding that maintaining effective composure in the face of this stress, maintaining one’s military or professional bearing - an element of the previous Presence attribute - is necessary when influencing others. If we are in a leadership position, we must understand if we appear panicked, stressed out, or unsure, then these may be perceived by our followers and influence them negatively. Conversely, in the face of problems and threats, if we show optimism, determination, and even humor, then this may positively impact our people. The reason this falls under Intellect’s Interpersonal Tact, as well as Presence’s Military and Professional Bearing, is that it takes an understanding of the situation and its impact on others to alter one’s Presence. We may actually be panicked and would outwardly present as such, but intellectually we know that would be counterproductive for the team, so as a leader, we control that feeling and project confidence instead.
Leaders have a moral obligation to those they lead to improve their expertise continuously. Leaders themselves should be open and eager to benefit from others’ knowledge to enhance their own tactical and technical expertise. (ADP 6-22)
Here is the element where most associate the Intellect attribute, having subject matter expertise in your profession. For the U.S. Army’s purpose, it has four different types of knowledge, all applicable.
- Tactical Knowledge - related to the duties of the individual's profession. Technology may change but the fundamental principles of one’s job rarely do. This can relate to understanding the philosophy and reasons why we do what we do in our profession. Tactical knowledge is about using your particular expertise to help the organization achieve the desired results, and how each individual can apply their expertise toward this process. Dealing with our people and for military and business customers, implementing training for new employees or new tech rollouts, as well as the specialized processes of our craft.
- Technical Knowledge - relates to the systems we use to support the aforementioned process that tactical knowledge supports. It is the weapons, computer systems, infrastructure, and all things related to equipment and tools that empower the individual to employ their tactical knowledge.
- Joint Knowledge - relates to understating how our tactical and technical expertise, and our organizations as a whole, fit into the greater picture of military operations. The Army uses this term to imply the Army fights alongside the other Services; Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Space Force and other intergovernmental organizations, so we need to be able to see how our actions help or hinder the operations of others so we all act in a unified manner. For the private sector, this could be thought of as how one’s business or profession fits into the greater market; such as a restaurant being cognizant that the condition of local farmers and the general public impact their bottom line and working to help improve conditions in the local community - like being a member of the chamber of commerce.
- Cultural and Geopolitical Knowledge - relates to that long winded discussion in Interpersonal Tact about understanding how our leadership styles produce different results based on the cultural perceptions of our audience. This is the category of knowledge that allows that tact to be effective. Understanding different cultures and politics and how they impact the ability to do one’s duty will mean overall effectiveness in accomplishing your purpose. As a leader, this means not only being sensitive to these differences when dealing with others, but also ensuring that your people are taught to do similar, or at the very least teach them what not to do so they don’t cause offense or confusion that is counterproductive. Sometimes others just do things differently, and we need to know why and how so we can compensate.
These four types of knowledge are important for a leader of an organization to have just as much as it is for an individual as the leader will have to guide the organization to implement them in practice. Remember that a leader is not only the person that tells people what to do, but also trains, coaches, and mentors their people. What they are training, coaching, and mentoring is the learning and application of these types of knowledge, of what becomes their expertise. But it is necessary, at least as a tool for remembering, the different types of knowledge. Here are some examples:
As an artilleryman, we have tactical knowledge of ballistics and how to get the fire commands for the howitzers and rockets from the plethora of computations that need to take place. We have technical knowledge of the systems we use to generate the fire commands, analog and digital computation tools, as well as how to emplace and care for the howitzers and launchers. We have Joint Knowledge in how our fire support capabilities tie into the greater fight, and how to deconflict with other services. And most importantly, we have cultural and geopolitical knowledge that if we need to train foreign artillerymen in how to use their weapon systems, that if they use Soviet/Russian-made artillery systems that they will be using a different computational system that requires us to adjust how we teach ballistic computations.
As a Realtor, we have tactical knowledge of the multiple listing service (MLS), of the shifting market between buyers and sellers, as well as a more niche understanding of how to service clients; like military veterans using their own home loan program. We have technical knowledge in how our own MLS functions, how to search for listed homes and how to list homes of sellers on the MLS. We have joint knowledge in how lenders may react to the income of a particular buyer, how inspectors may perceive a particular defect that we may want to correct, and how the overall inventory of homes being constructed will impact housing speculation. And we have cultural and geopolitical knowledge through staying aware of municipal regulations and laws for zoning, as well as how the real estate laws of other states may impact the desired ends of our clients.
As an owner of a restaurant, they have tactical knowledge of not only how to cook particular recipes, but also to manage the flow of patrons and customer management. They have technical knowledge of table reservation and management systems, how their kitchen equipment functions and who to contact to make necessary repairs. They have joint knowledge in how they engage with local farmers to get fresh and timely produce, and how to work with the local chamber of commerce to improve local and tourist commercial engagement. And they have cultural and geopolitical knowledge in that they understand what local regulations are required in the food service industry, as well as gauging the market to detect shifting tastes of the public in what they are looking for in a restaurant - organic, vegan, locally sourced, or tailored customer experiences.
We use our intellect, our expertise in a particular field to produce results in a more effective manner when compared to novices. Anyone can put a projectile and propellant into a cannon, but it is the expertise that allows the artilleryman to hit targets they can’t even see. Anyone can throw money at a homeowner or put their home for sale in the classifieds, but it is the expertise that allows the Realtor to market and sell a home at a higher value for their seller, or reduce the offer amount for their buyer, so their client gets/keeps more of their money. Anyone can cook food and sell it to others, but it is the expertise that allows the restaurant owner to set up systems and processes, get employees working in synergistic ways, so that they can service food to scores more people.
All this being said about Intellect and Expertise is all fine and dandy, but ultimately it is about getting results. Experts use their knowledge to guide others to the accomplishment of purpose, regardless of the profession. However, with all the variables that can be present, expertise can also paralyze an individual into inaction as they wait for more information about the environment before they can act. They know so much about a particular area that they may feel the need to wait before they can make the best decision, because they fear making a bad or mediocre decision due to lack of complete understanding. This leads to what many call “analysis paralysis,” where those making leadership decisions are unable to move forward in the hopes that they can get greater details on a situation, greater knowledge about the environment, which may never come. Sometimes those with less experience simply achieve results by doing something because they don’t know better, whereas those that know better do nothing while trying to know more.
Peter F. Drucker acknowledges these issues when he discusses plodders:
In every organization there are some highly effective plodders. While others rush around in the frenzy and busyness which very bright people so often confuse with “creativity,” the plodder puts one foot in front of the other and gets there first, like the tortoise in the old fable. Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results. (The Effective Executive)
I only mention this for one reason, it is all about getting results. Experts are more effective at getting results since they can tailor courses of action in such a way that everyone’s skills are best utilized and nested with the purpose of the organization. When expertise creates a situation where unknown variables cause the expert to fear what unforeseen results may transpire, then sometimes those without expertise can at least get some results - even if they weren’t as effective as they could be. Remember it is all about the results, not getting the results due to lack of a complete expert understanding is not an option a leader can entertain.
It is all about leading your people and influencing them to perform, motivating them in ways that produce positive outcomes. When we have difficult and tiring tasks, be they a grunt in the military or a laborer in the civilian sector, it can be difficult to find the motivation. Leaders are charged with finding out how to bring out positive attitudes and keep people working towards goals effectively and with lasting vigor. It is not an easy task to motivate others, because motivation is inherently subjective to the individual. Some are influenced by cash bonuses while others are influenced by recognition.
In a story by CSM (Ret) Mark Gerecht, he brings up a story of a time when he was a First Sergeant trying to figure out ways to motivate Soldiers. Long story short, he was convinced by a CPT Christina Schweiss to write letters to a few Soldier’s families and spouses about their Soldier’s stellar performance. He got his company commander’s approval and the two were ready to send them out:
I prepared a formal counseling statement that informed the Soldier I was proud of their performance and that I would like to send the letter to a loved one of their choice. The counseling requested their approval to send the letter and the address along with the name of the individual I was to address the letter to. I also allowed them to read a copy of the letter.
I was not prepared for what happened next. The impact on the Soldier and by extension myself and the unit was intense. These Soldiers were moved emotionally. One began to cry, another said something like “Thanks Top I don’t think I can describe to you what this means to me. No one has ever done anything like this for me.”
Then some other things happened that I was not expecting. These Soldiers went out and shared this experience with others in the unit and it created a buzz in the company like, “WOW TOP AND THE OLD MAN CARE ABOUT US.” … It wasn’t about a letter, it was about being a caring Leader. I will never forget the impact those letters had on the Soldiers, their loved ones, the unit, and the personal impact they had on me. (Lessons Learned: Leadership)
Humans are inherently social creatures, so while cash incentives are desired, often all that is required is acknowledgment and appreciation for one’s work. By reaching out to families, the chain of command not only voiced their appreciation of their Soldiers' contributions to the unit but improved their social status as well. Families can show pride in their Soldiers, and in one case even began the mending process between the Soldier and estranged parents who had not heard from them in about three years.
What matters most in the story, other than the feel-good nature of the whole thing, is that these Soldiers spread the word within the organization. They were able to communicate that the leadership of the unit was concerned and proud of their Soldiers, and this would instill an increased sense of loyalty to the chain of command, motivation to continue to excel, and even a sense of friendly competition to be next in line to be commended in such a genuine way.
Psychologists and social scientists have proven time and again that the most powerful motivators of people are achievement and the recognition of that achievement. It is important to note that these two elements cannot be separated… People who are being consistently recognized for their achievements report higher job satisfaction and perform at higher levels than those who are not. In virtually any organization, leaders who consistently find ways to recognize the achievement of their employees through positive emotional experiences deliver superior results. (People Follow You)
Remember, leading is about influencing, it is about applying the attributes of the leader in such a way that they are able to get others to act. This can be through direct forms of leadership, by telling others what needs to be done and offering incentives for good performance; such as cash bonuses, vacation, promotions, awards, and public recognition. The leader can also employ consequences for bad performance, which can include punishments, reprimands, loss of pay, loss of position, and, in the case of military personnel, a reminder of what happens to failure on the battlefield. They can influence indirectly by setting an example of what to do, extolling the actions of others, and generally caring about the well-being of their people.
Caring for one’s people in order to influence them to action is not a new concept. Either as a response to shared hardships or intentional on behalf of leadership, it is common to develop close bonds between leaders and followers. The sentiment reaches back into antiquity, for example, during the Chinese Spring and Autumn Period (722-481 BCE) Sun-Tzu wrote of Generals and their soldiers much like one would write of fathers and sons:
When the general regards his troops as young children, they will advance into the deepest valleys with him. When he regards the troops as his beloved children, they will be willing to die with him. If they are well treated but cannot be employed, if they are loved but cannot be commanded, or when in chaos they cannot be governed, they may be compared to arrogant children and cannot be used. (Art of War)
In the west, William Shakespeare would even write about this sentiment in Henry V:
From this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered - we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.
In contemporary times we do refer to each other, indirectly, as brothers and sisters, but this is the result of bonds built around a common understanding of burden and shared hardships. A bond amongst those that serve as a result of this service, and not necessarily one developed through a shared experience. I may not know you personally, this may be the first time we have met, but if you serve as I do then you are my brothers and sisters and you have my respect and my loyalty. If there is indeed a shared experience, especially in combat when Character and Presence are tested, the bonds can be even stronger, sometimes stronger than literal family.
The fundamentals of leading are sound. It transcends throughout time, and applies to all human activity. Being a military leader, the owner of a business, a sports coach, a teacher, and even a parent, the quality of how we lead; this core competency of a leader, is the same. In some way we reward good behavior and punish bad; we empathize with those we lead to gain their commitment; and though we desire compulsion to do the right thing, when it fails we rely on compliance.
Henry V (1989) - Saint Crispin's Day Speech
The modern military is unique in its development of leaders. We almost exclusively train, develop, promote, and position our leaders from within our own ranks. While individuals must really take charge of their own career development within the force, superiors have the duty to “develop” their subordinates through training opportunities and eventually positions of higher responsibility that they need to be eligible for promotion.
Now within the officer ranks of the Army, superiors attempt to slant key developmental positions of the officers within their force. The “slant” is the term we use for the calendar timeline for our units that stretches out into the future where we can identify when subordinates may be scheduled to assume certain duty positions that are key to their development. This key development time, or KD Time, may be different between ranks and military occupation. The leader isn’t required to put someone in a particular position, they will make a determination based on the individual’s competency and potential to be Developed and Achieve results. If the commander slanting officers believes that a subordinate is lacking in these Core Attributes and Competencies then they will evaluate, counsel, develop, and if necessary, separate from the Army. It doesn’t do the officer, the organization, or the Soldiers any favors if the officer can’t perform in the long run.
We need dedicated performers moved into positions of elevated responsibility if they are a proven fit. Past performance does not guarantee future performance, but it does give you a better chance of success than selecting a proven non-performer. Don’t get sucked into fancy titles that look good on paper. What is the bottom line? The bottom line is performance.
The Army also has a systematic way it develops its leaders, one of which the aforementioned superior officer attempts to support by slanting. For Officers, NCOs, and junior enlisted Soldiers the various branches of the Army (Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Military Police, Engineers, Intelligence, Transportation, etc.) have proponents in Training and Doctrine Command, called TRADOC, that serves more-or-less as the academic/schoolhouse-side of the Army. They manage basic training for new recruits, professional military education for NCOs and Officers, and publish our doctrine that unify and standardize the systems and processes for how we fight. Doctrine, how we fight, will shape the curriculum of professional military education as well as the career development needed of the future Army.
So, the various proponents, such as Field Artillery and Intelligence, will identify what is “KD Time” for its own people and at what ranks. For example, an artillery captain’s KD Time would be taking command of a battery, while their major KD Time could be that of an artillery battalion executive officer, operations officer, or brigade fire support officer. Because each proponent has separate career paths for its officer, while the artillery captain’s KD Time was in command of a battery, the intel captain’s KD Time could be leading a battalion intelligence section; called an S2, as well as taking command of an intel company. The intelligence community has far fewer intelligence units compared to combat arms branches, like the Artillery and Infantry, so they develop and focus on other positions that make them well rounded officers eligible for promotion; not to mention that intelligence as a function is mainly staff work and leading a functional staff may be a better assessor of potential for promotion than commanding a company.
Another aspect of being an Army Leader that Develops is the ability to counsel, coach, and mentor.
- Through counseling the leader is able to work with their subordinate in order to guide them in their own development. The leader’s initial counseling will seek to set forth expectations, how they want the organization to function and the subordinates' place to facilitate that function. They will help chart a path for the junior’s professional development and give them goals or milestones to work towards. As they coach and mentor the junior, future periodic counseling serves as opportunities for the leader to identify strengths and weaknesses to provide further encouragement or course correction as necessary.
- Coaching is the process of getting the subordinate to perform the tasks they know more effectively and with confidence. Many times, the subordinate knows what to do, they are competent in their profession, however, they may be unsure of themselves or lack confidence. The Army Leader seeks to bring out the motivation and gusto to carry out their tasks, and give advice on how to do their job more effectively from their own knowledge and experience.
- Mentoring comes into play when the mentored individual is inexperienced at the task at hand, so the mentor guides them through the process. They teach them what they need to do, what to expect, and get them to a level of competency that only requires coaching to improve them.
One aspect of developing these junior leaders is not just the fact that we want them to be good at their job and assist in achieving the purpose of the organization in their own capacity by contributing as a leader within the team. It is for the benefit of the long-term sustainability of the organization that we develop leaders that can one day fill the vacancies of their superiors.
Professor Michael A. Roberto, in his discussion of on transformational leadership and the internal develop of leader’s said this:
Leaders need to think about succession as a long-term process if they want to be successful. Succession must also be thought of at all levels of leadership—not just in the office of the CEO. Developing people is really the highest calling of leadership; it’s what creates sustainable high performance and an institution that endures.
Now, while he noted that leadership vacancies generally occur as a result of leaders moving on to other positions, getting head-hunted by competition, or retiring, he did note that people in the civilian sector do die or suffer health issues that take them out of the fight - so to speak. A business leader could die of health complications or even just get hit by a bus walking down the street tomorrow, and that it behooves the organization to have its leaders develop juniors that could be able to step up and take charge should the situation call for it.
Spoiler alert reader, you too are mortal and can die any number of ways. For every duty you have in your life; work, family, or other positions of importance, think about what would happen to those organizations should you drop-dead right now. If there would be problems resulting from people not being prepared, then get prepared and develop others to be able to take over for you.
For me, personally, when I took over the real estate brokerage from the former owner/manager after her death, I was already in the process of learning all of her duties and responsibilities. When she died, the organization didn’t grind to a halt, we adjusted and were able to carry-on almost immediately. There were naturally government registries and clerical work that would take time, but the brokerage continued to operate during the transition for the benefit of the agents, only because she had prepared me as her replacement ahead of time.
Now, the military focuses on leader development and succession for two primary reasons. The first is that we generally don’t laterally transfer civilians from the private sector into higher-levels of duty and responsibility. Once you enter you start from the bottom, either as a private or specialist in the enlisted ranks, or as a lieutenant in the commissioned officer ranks. Same for the other Services. It nurtures an understanding of the duties and hardships experienced at all echelons as well as reinforcing the perception that the senior leader is in fact committed to the well-being of the organization as their rank and position is not only determined by merit but also by the amount of time they spent in service.
The second reason, and one in which James H. Toner brings up when he discusses military ethics; of which we will discuss in much greater detail in the next chapter “2.4 The Purpose and Ethics of War,” is that Soldiers have four distinguishable tasks that separates the professional warfighter from other human professions. Those tasks are to kill, prepare to kill, die, and prepare to die. Macabre, yes, but it is reality. We train our subordinates to replace us, not only because we may eventually retire or move on to other duty stations, but that in preparing to fight in war “preparing to kill” we also anticipate that members of our organization will be killed during the execution of operations. We “prepare to die” by training those that would replace us so that if, during conflict, we do “die” our duties are quickly covered and the organization continues to function. The worst thing would be for a few leaders to die, causing people to be stuck in analysis paralysis on what to do next, only causing more people to die in a self-feeding cycle of death and inaction.
The fact that we don’t dictate when we die in battle, or when the nation decides to send us, as a sense of practicality we mainly focus on training subordinates for our eventual departure to new units and as professional development for them. Whereas in the private sector, training your eventual replacement can feel like digging your own grave, in the military it is encouraged and positively remarked during our annual evaluation as an aspect of stewardship for our organizations.
Leaders demonstrate stewardship when they act to improve the organization beyond their own tenure. Improving the organization for the long-term is deciding and taking action to manage people or resources when the benefits may not occur during a leader’s tour of duty with an organization. (ADP 6-22)
Humans develop organizations, military or business, in order to combine their resources, intellect, and power to achieve a desired end state. That end state becomes the purpose of that organization, its entire reason for existing in the first place. Humans identify individuals with the capacity to provide purpose, direction, and motivation to push the organization’s people along a course of action towards the desired end state. They become our leaders and their ability to make things happen is why we have them. If they can’t “Get Results” that are favorable to the objectives of the organization then they may be replaced by someone who can.
Get results is the single achieves competency and relates to actions of leading to accomplish tasks and mission on time and to standard. Getting results requires the right integration of tasks, roles, resources, and priorities. Getting results focuses tasks, priorities, people, and other resources to achieve the desired outcomes. Leaders are ready to take action all the time to achieve outcomes and make necessary adjustments for success. Leaders also work to sustain or improve the organization's performance by assessing and giving feedback as they execute and make adjustments. (ADP 6-22)
In its simplest form, leadership is about getting others to accomplish tasks that benefit the group. All of this talk about leadership qualities, competency, vision, planning, empathy, and whatnot, are merely expounding the concept into a method that is a little more practical and applicable to the things we do. “Yeah, I know I need to get my Soldiers or employees to do the things I need them to do in order to accomplish objectives,” you may say, “everyone knows that, but how do I do that?” To answer that question, any number of authors on leadership have written numerous books and articles on the topic from philosophical, scientific, and anecdotal perspectives. Each adds their own perspective, as much as War Is My Business does throughout its writing, especially in this chapter, but fundamentally it is the same thing - getting groups of humans to do things for a collective benefit.
The leader of a group, not only has their own contributions to the organization just as any other member, but is also charged with ensuring the contributions of others are integrated and complementary in nature. Cutting the unnecessary and ensuring no one is inadvertently hindering the efforts of others by synergizing their actions in whichever way is most efficient and practical to the organization. The military uses various planning and decision-making processes, develops and selects from various courses of action, and synchronizes staff inputs and outputs through a battle rhythm. Businesses use project planning and management, quality assurance and control processes, and monthly/quarterly/annual reports that serve as metrics that shape future planning decisions. Regardless of the processes and systems we use, or the words we choose to call them, we are essentially doing the same thing: getting groups of people to do things that are for the betterment of the organization in pursuit of its purpose.
This is why, given all the other core attributes and competencies within the U.S. Army's leadership model that Achieves is the most important. Getting results that the Army is looking for the benefit of the nation, the reason it is funded, manned, and equipped, and the very reason it exists “to conduct large-scale combat operations for as long as is required to prevail as part of the joint force.” If you aren’t achieving the results you are looking to achieve, or are at least making movement in that direction, then there is no point to the rest. There is no point in having a leader of sound character, awe inspiring presence, sharp intellect, leading from the front, and developing their people - if they lose.
This isn’t to say that failing to achieve desired ends means giving up. In fact, George Washington himself was very much great in every other aspect of leadership during the beginning of America’s War of Independence. When we look back at Washington, we look at his character and presence to maintain morale of a constantly downtrodden Continental Army, and we respected his ability to lead and develop his junior officers and his mental acuity to accept the sound advice of other officers when his own decisions were questioned. However, we look at these questions in spite of his earlier failures, because he would eventually begin getting results on the battlefield. He didn’t give up, especially when things seemed bleak, and he was able to pass this feeling onto his troops. We look back at Washington not because he was always a winner on the battlefield, he wasn’t, but because he was able to keep things together until battlefield successes were being achieved.
He got results, eventually, thanks to proper training of his forces through Von Steuben, increased supplies from European partners, French naval and ground forces, and, most importantly, Great Britain choosing to give up. What a fledgling America needed was to be recognized as an independent nation, its Army’s purpose was to engage with and keep the British army occupied with fighting instead of projecting power and its will upon the United States, and Washington was able to keep the Army fighting. The nation didn’t need Washington to win battles, though it would have helped if he did. What they needed him to do was to keep fighting and not lose a devastatingly horrendous battle. In this situation, Washington got results.
So, be it military or business, what matters is the results of the overall purpose of the business, and not necessarily each and every result of every action taken. What I mean to say is that there may be times where the immediate result of an action may not be beneficial or profitable, but you need to assess the action based on the overall plan of the organization to accomplish its purpose. For example, a business's purpose may be to create a profit, and improving employee comfort with air conditioning and ergonomic equipment and furniture may cut into profit, however, comfortable employees may become more productive and less likely to quit, which can increase profits in the long-run.
This is why the Army also discusses the other important aspects of a leader. Toxic leaders can get results; however, they stress their organizations, break their people, and foster a hostile work environment to do so. Results were achieved, but they were short-term results, at the expense of the organization's long-term viability and its ability to achieve its purpose. This is why we also evaluate leaders based on these other attributes and competencies. Yes, we want results, it is what is most important, however, the way in which these results were achieved is also important. This is why leaders must be team focused instead of focusing on what is best for the leader.
The most important leadership principle is that leaders get paid for what their people do, not what they do. As a leader, maximize your performance by constantly and consistently focusing your attention on getting your people in position to win. (People Follow You)
The leader should have a near-single minded focus, what is best for the organization and its accomplishment of its purpose. To assist in this they must realize that they must also embody these core elements of leadership so that what they achieve is long-lasting and makes the organization survive long-after they have left.
Leadership in the Business Sector
Leadership in the Business Sector
The military-sphere focuses on leadership and leader development in order to produce effective organizations that are able to accomplish their assigned missions. The leader understands the organization's purpose, gives direction to achieve that purpose, and motivates their people to succeed and push through hardships. This is no less true for businesses. In reality, any group of people that have to work towards a common goal need leadership, to some degree, to unify their efforts. That being said, the problems of leadership are practically universal. Yes, we can frame leadership problems specific to professions or functional areas, however, this is merely an exercise to solve a unique issue or use familiarity to develop a shared understanding.
While the problems faced by a military leader may appear starkly different from the perspective of a business leader, the problems are, as I mentioned, fundamentally the same. This veneer of military ends, ways, and means and the jargon we use for our own sake belie the underlying human aspect. The tools we have in the military; weapon systems, mission command systems, and battle rattle, the tools found in a business; factory equipment, customer relationship management systems, uniforms, and personal protective equipment, are just that; tools, used by humans to shape their environments. The courses of action the military develops to ready their forces and accomplish success in the battle space and the course of action developed by businesses to gain market share and make a profit, are just that; courses of action, developed by humans to accomplish their ends. The warfighters’ drive to assault an objective, sacrifice to protect one another, and endure hardships, and the businesspersons’ drive to satisfy clients and customers, cover down on a colleague’s mistake, and ability to push through to meet quotas or deadlines, is just that, drive, used by humans to push through difficulty and support one another.
The premise is that, regardless of the leadership problems faced in the military or in business, the underlying issue; the common denominator, is that humans are functionally the same. The solutions to the problems of leading Soldiers can provide us with examples of how to lead others in a business setting; once you get past the military veneer to the underlying human element. So to wrap up this chapter on leadership, I will instead look towards the common problems faced by business leaders and discuss how the military would tackle it.
In 2016, authors William Gentry, Regina Eckert, Sarah Stawiski, and Sophia Zhoa wrote a white paper for the Center for Creative Leadership entitled, The Challenges Leaders Face Around the World: More Similar than Different which puts forth six challenges that leaders from various countries face. These business leaders included 793 people holding leadership positions, such as managers and executives, from “China/Hong Kong, Egypt, India, Singapore, Spain, United Kingdom, and United States,” identified a number of issues. In total 34 challenges were presented to their audience, ten were selected as the most critical, and six of that top ten were written about in this white paper.
The white paper itself is pretty barren as far as usable content. The value of the document, however, comes from its ability to bring up the common problems faced by business leaders of different cultures and environmental variables. If we take it at face value, it shows that the issues of leadership are common regardless of where it occurs. The fact that developing one’s subordinates or improving upon the effectiveness of managers is a challenge faced by all - is comforting. Comforting in that the issue is an inherently human issue, and not a unique problem faced by us alone, as we try to improve upon our organizations and achieve our purpose.
Similarly, these challenges are not unique to the private sector. These following six challenges are indeed leadership challenges found within a military organization. I will go over these six challenges, mention the authors suggested methods to overcome them, and then discuss the similarities on how we overcome these same problems on the military-side. If some of the solutions provided by the authors seem similar to what I have already discussed in this chapter then now you may begin to realize, if you hadn’t already, the interconnected nature of human endeavors.
Six Common Challenges across Seven Countries
Looking across the countries, there are six main categories that comprise more than half of all challenges. In addition, these six are ranked among the Top 10 challenges leaders face in each country. In order of frequency, they are:
- Developing Managerial Effectiveness—The challenge of developing the relevant skills—such as time management, prioritization, strategic thinking, decision-making, and getting up to speed with the job—to be more effective at work.
- Inspiring Others—The challenge of inspiring or motivating others to ensure they are satisfied with their jobs; how to motivate a workforce to work smarter.
- Developing Employees—The challenge of developing others, including topics around mentoring and coaching.
- Leading a Team—The challenge of team-building, team development, and team management; how to instill pride in a team or support the team, how to lead a big team, and what to do when taking over a new team.
- Guiding Change—The challenge of managing, mobilizing, understanding, and leading change. How to mitigate change consequences, overcome resistance to change, and deal with employees’ reaction to change.
- Managing Internal Stakeholders and Politics—The challenge of managing relationships, politics, and image. Gaining managerial support and managing up; getting buy-in from other departments, groups, or individuals.
In regards to developing managerial effectiveness, they suggest the leader focus on setting goals, delegating tasks, prioritizing tasks that allow the leader to add value, and having a clear delineation of what is and isn’t in their scope of work, especially in regards to dealing with both superiors and subordinates. Much of what these recommendations tackle is the conflict between two aspects of course of action execution. The first being the quality of the plan or the process being developed in which everyone executes, and second being the time it takes to make and execute the plan or process.
The most frequently mentioned challenge for China, India, and the United States is developing managerial effectiveness. This reflects the challenge of leaders to have a range of very specific kills such as prioritization, time management, and decision-making. Though this sort of skill development has been noted for decades, it still seems to be one that is relevant in today’s world of work.
In our last chapter, “2.2 On Training,” we discussed how the United States Army covers these very issues in relation to training units to become combat ready and sustain that readiness over a period of time. The unit focuses their limited time and resources on becoming trained and proficient so they can accomplish their assigned mission - the purpose of their organization. Focusing on mission-essential tasks (METs), delegating duties to trained and trusted personnel that have a shared understanding of the purpose of the organization, and a structured decision-making process that allows for the development of comprehensive and competent plans.
Concurrent with training and combat operations would be both the military decision making process (MDMP) and mission command that allow members of an organization to execute their mission effectively. The leadership understands the purpose of the organization, has a shared understanding of what is required to achieve that purpose and everyone’s part, and the trust shared between leadership and subordinates so that subordinates have the leeway to adjust their actions to accomplish that purpose even if it must deviate from the plan. This is how the military employs managerial effectiveness within its organizations, and I will discuss the concepts of MDMP and mission command in greater detail in later chapters.
In regards to inspiring others, developing employees, and leading a team, the authors end up wrapping these three into the overarching “relationship-oriented part of leadership.” They suggest making an active effort to mentor, coach, and develop your people, and to promote your people within the organization and improve their competency. To satisfy the psychological and social needs of employees. And to provide purpose, support, and facilitate the sharing of information internal to the team and to external organizations.
From the Army position, these suggestions are correct, though lacking in substance on how to implement them. They imply that the reader knows the difference between coaching and mentoring, and how to develop employees. They imply the leader knows how to assess the needs of their people, and how to guide them to desired ends. Indeed, the white paper is merely a tool to identify the problems and give hints at solutions that require the reader to go and figure it out themselves. Thankfully, dear reader, all of these issues are basically covered in Army’s publications that I relied heavily on in last chapter “2.2 On Training,” and this chapter; which are FM 7-0 Training and ADP 6-22 Army Leadership and the Profession, respectively.
To avoid going over what was already stated previously at length, inspiring others can be found in the purpose, direction, and guidance that leaders give their people, and is discussed greatly earlier in this chapter in the section called “What Leaders Give to Their People.” Developing others is the same teaching, coaching, and mentoring found in the Develops section of the Army Leadership Requirements Model. The methods for leading a team are covered in the previous chapter section called “Principles of Training.” The military is a people organization, and compelling individuals to work for the betterment and effectiveness of the organization, especially at the expense of the individual, is always a challenge. It is an issue for which we have studied and tested in numerous iterations so our publications are valid, at the very least in practice. The environment in which our Soldiers serve our Army and our employees work for our business may be different, however, the principles are universal and the leader must determine the motivations of their people to leverage those desires, to get them inspired, to get them to be more effective, and to get them to work well within a team-based environment.
In regards to guiding change, they understand that change is uncomfortable to most employees. We get used to our systems and processes, and change is not only taxing on the mind but also brings with it many variables which can cause unforeseen outcomes. Even in the face of new threats from competitors, the comfort of the familiar is dangerously enticing. The authors state:
Organizations exist in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). Leaders need to be adept at managing, mobilizing, leading, and dealing with change. Incorporating change management and enhancing resourcefulness should be at the forefront of leadership development initiatives.
The world is indeed dynamic. That requires us to be adaptive to change, and this perspective is very much familiar to me. The term VUCA was a term we used in the military to describe the hybrid and transnational threats in varied environments that complicated our traditional course of action development; making us consider the second and third-order effects of military action and the incorporation of other elements of national power into our planning.
- Noting that the authors cited a source for VUCA, I referenced their endnotes to see who they cited. Much to my pleasant surprise they referenced a publication on modern military matters entitled, The U.S. Army War College: Military Education in a Democracy by Judith Hicks Stiehm. While entering the lexicon in the late 80’s and being popularized in military circles, eventually VUCA found its way into the civilian sector to describe the markets.
The authors aren’t here to discuss what needs to change, only that change is needed and determined to be implemented. The authors focus on how we convince the organization itself to adopt the change, and their suggestions include getting your own buy-in to the change and set the example for others to follow, to understand that people will react differently to the proposed change, that rationality and logic alone may not convince some and to be able to react to the emotions involved, and to be as unambiguous and open during the process as possible so as to ease the burden of uncertainty during the transition.
The Army Leadership Requirements Model and its principles on what makes an effective leader; core attributes and competencies, are what allow the military to most effectively implement change. A large element of commanding effective change deals with empathy, and not necessarily telling people to just do it. Indeed, command authority and compliance can get change started, but it will take compulsion for change to stick and the only way to get people to maintain the change and take it to heart is to understand how they feel about change and make them commit to it.
Within the Character attribute you have selfless service (an Army Value), empathy, discipline, and humility. Selflessness will show your people your actions and directives are for the betterment of the organization, and not personal benefit. Empathy will help you understand the motives of your people and what they need. Discipline makes you capable of maintaining control of yourself and the organization, acting as an anchor during times of change. And humility shows that though you are in charge you acknowledge that you are not all-knowing, and that you will need others' assistance in implementing the change.
Within the Presence attribute you have confidence and resilience. Confidence that you have the ability to successfully change in spite of setback and resistance, and resilience when setbacks do inevitably come up to keep going.
In the Intellect attribute you have mental agility, sound judgment, and interpersonal tact. You need the mental agility to be flexible when the change causes unforeseen effects. You need the sound judgment to make alterations to the plan while still achieving the desired ends. You need interpersonal tact when dealing with others who may be struggling with the change at hand, and how best to support their needs and difficulties - an extension of empathy.
And within the competency of Leads, leading others with the tools of compliance and commitment, the various methods of influence, and providing purpose, direction, and motivation; to which we have spoken about ad nauseam in this chapter are critical to successfully executing the change to a desirable end state.
In regards to managing internal stakeholders and politics, they understand that within a business there are various groups of people with their own motives that shape how the organization may function. That within your business, there may be different groups or collectives all vying for limited resources or favor. Understanding the danger that this situation imposes on leadership is critical to promote cooperation between these potentially competing groups.
They suggest improving your own network of people with whom you have strong connections with and with whom you can leverage for the betterment of the organization. They advise keeping your own superiors well informed about the situation, especially challenges, so that in the process of helping them do their job more effectively by keeping them in the loop they can help you by keeping your group adequately supplied and with additional support if needed. They also advise that you become an effective listener, learning about others issues so that you can become more informed on the goings on, as well as leaving a good impression; things you may need to leverage later for your organization.
Indeed, within the military, though everyone strives for selflessness and thinking only about the benefit of others and the organization, there is still the game of maintaining relationships. Granted, interpersonal relationships are not as critical to getting things done, leaders, subordinates, and peers are able to get a lot more accomplished if there is a sense of comradery and obligation to support one another. Leaders who like their subordinates will be motivated to support them in their plans and back them in tense situations. Subordinates who like their leaders will seek to achieve their leader’s goal with more enthusiasm and persistence beyond simply following orders. And peers will assist and cover down for their colleague should they have issues or need assistance in accomplishing assigned tasks. An organization with a strong hierarchy, but with mutual respect and amiability is an organization that can accomplish difficult missions.
Conclusion On Leadership
Conclusion On Leadership
Practically all of human conflict and business is an exercise in the application of leadership. Other than in single-combat dueling and martial arts or sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs where the only employee is the owner themselves, military and business organizations have to work with numerous other human beings to get things done. While the veneer of warfare and business appear to make comparisons between the leadership techniques of both sectors a fruitless endeavor, during this chapter; and the entirety of the premise of War Is My Business for that matter, it is my hope that I have communicated that this is furthest from the truth.
The problems of leadership in the business world aren’t a separate matter. Humans develop organizations to pull resources and effort to achieve a desired end. Be they military commanders or a chief executive officer, they must provide purpose for organization, direction for its people, and motivation to push through hardships towards the desired end state. Due to the consequences of failure and success in the military-sphere, however; from antiquity to the present-day, leadership has been an area of study and discussion to a much greater extent. Though, as we have seen, the leadership problems found in the business world are the same problems we tackle in the military. The ways we conduct ourselves, the means we use to achieve our objectives, and the ends we seek to achieve may be varied between warfare and business, but the underlying issues of influencing humans to do the things in an effective and unified manner are the same.
Leadership is providing purpose, direction, and motivation to achieve goals and improve the organization, and this is the same for all leaders; regardless of the human endeavor. The United States Army provides this through the development of its leadership, and the emphasis that leadership places on its training. How a unit trains will impact how it performs in combat. If the unit’s purpose is to fight and win in its assigned mission, then the leadership’s decision on what they choose to focus on in training and what gets cut from the training schedule will have a great impact on the accomplishment of the unit’s purpose. By understanding the purpose of the organization, they can understand what they should train. They provide direction to the organization’s people through its planning, and the motivation to execute upon that plan in order to succeed. Effective and prioritized training is an extension of leadership that is critical to success, and important for business leaders if they want to achieve their goals as well.
The Army also identified those aspects of what makes leaders effective, and has focused on developing those aspects in its people. The Army’s Leadership Requirements Model, known as BE-KNOW-DO, is made up of attributes and competencies that are labeled as Character, Presence, Intellect, Leads, Develops, and Achieves. By being able to put into words these categories, the Army is able to communicate to its Soldiers the areas that they need to improve upon in order to better their performance and, therefore, improve their organizations. With everyone on the same page on what is needed to make effective leaders, the Army; as a leader to the whole force, has provided purpose, direction, and motivation to the development of its people. As a business leader, developing your own people along similar lines as that of the BE-KNOW-DO model, should provide effective improvement and longevity to your business.
Regardless, leadership is about accomplishing purpose, through direction and motivation. We know there are ways to develop leadership, and we promote development of leaders as a way to improve the effectiveness of our people in the accomplishment of our goals and objectives. Leadership gets us to our desired end, but what if our desired end is not correct? The purpose of the organization, be it military or business, is to achieve that end, but what is the purpose, exactly? Who determines purpose, and can purpose be attributed incorrectly? What occurs if we change the purpose of an established organization, and how does this change impact its performance? And is the purpose we seek to achieve actually a good idea?
Well, all this depends on the reasons why humans organize themselves into groups, and what we seek to accomplish for our betterment. It ends up being an exercise in philosophy, the social and cultural implications of certain actions which we see as either being positive or negative; good or bad. Killing is either good or bad, depending on the person or people's perspective. Exchanging goods, services, and money for other goods, services, or money is either good or bad, depending on the person or people’s perspective. If the purpose of our organization involves the ways and means of violence or persuasion in the execution of our purpose, then naturally people can similarly view our organization in either a positive or negative light.
So, how do we determine our purpose and the ethics of our organizations in the light of how other humans may or may not perceive us? The answer to that will be discussed in the next chapter, “2.4 The Purpose and Ethics of Warfare.”