“I will not send troops to danger which I will not myself encounter.” —-The Duke of Marlborough
I believe that the only advantage that the great leaders have over the good leaders is that GREAT ones will stand on the field with their men. We need leaders who are not just willing, but are inclined to lead from the front. Leaders show their people that a task is not impossible and that what-ever happens, they will be standing with you if the pieces fall to the floor.
While deployed, I had some of the best leaders I may ever meet. People who under the most chaotic of times, stood up, looked at their men and said “Follow Me!” Being in a leadership position myself I was naturally drawn to that mentality and was always looking for the opportunity to take all of the risk and make the decision for the benefit of my men.
That’s not to say that I’ve also met “leaders” that were sub-standard. One that comes to mind for me is the person who is awarded a Bronze Star for having soldiers who stepped up to every challenge that was thrown at them and then never thanks his troops for what they have done. (Unless the cameras were on.) The fact is that we found out about the medal through the grape-vine because this ““leader” was embarrassed to say anything to the soldiers. You see, he knew he didn’t deserve this award.
Being a leader means that you take responsibility of the people you look over. Using your influence to set them up for success and not failure. Regardless of the mission, or the project, leaders should be looking out for the best interests of their team. Leaders take every opportunity to motivate their people because they know that if the people aren’t happy, their also not doing their job to a 100%.
People are not born with a ‘leader’ gene. Leaders are created. Through sweat and hard work. People who make the conscious decision to take charge only have half of the puzzle. True leadership comes from taking charge and having the wisdom to know what will work. I watched a 20 year old kid that had a hard time standing up for himself turn into a man that could tell someone twice his size and rank for that matter “I am right and you are wrong!” Believe me, I was floored when I saw this happen. The kid had so much conviction in his voice the person twice his size was broken down. The fact is that the kid was right. He saw that his friends were being handed to the wolves and he wanted to do something about it. He knew it was the right thing to do and he took charge of it. Leaders own their responsibility and don’t care if they look bad doing the right thing.
In reality, leaders will make mistakes. It happens. But leaders will be the first to stand up and say it and have a solution that will correct the problem.
I find myself focusing on the leadership that is always surrounding me. From my office, to the people that we vote into office. Which of these are real leaders? Will your management stand by you or hide in their office when the right thing needs to be done? Will the people you work with own their responsibility or push the blame on others? We live in turbulent times both in politics and the business world. Wars are being fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Corporations are being bought, sold and dismantled. All of these things are out of my pay scale, but I can decide that I will be a leader for the people around me and I will hold my leaders to a higher standard because they have the position of influence. For the rest of you, make a conscious decision to be a leader or a follower. There is no wrong answer. Just make the choice. Its one of the most important decisions you will ever make!
“Lead, follow or get out of the way.” —lee Iacocca