Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Leadership Philosophy

I was asked to write a 500-word essay on my leadership philosophy to apply for a company command. Here it is:

The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.

—Thucydides, 5th Century Greek Historian

Recently I read an account about WWII war heroes. The author related accounts from Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers and then mentioned what I believe to be a mandatory characteristic of quality leadership. He wrote,

“Average leaders used the carrot and the stick to motivate those around them. Great leaders communicate a vision that captures the imagination and fires the hearts and minds of those around them. Average leaders inspire people to punch a time clock. Great leaders inspire industry and passion.

“You can get people to work by using threats or by promising rewards. But if you want to create a band of brothers, you must inspire those who work with you and encourage them to give their all in a great cause.” (Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Ensign, “Band of Brothers”, Feb 2008, p. 31.)

His words reminded me of the wit and candor of General SLA Marshall, a WWII veteran and author of Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War, who observed, “War is much too brutal a business to have room for brutal leading… The good company has no place for the officer who would rather be right than loved, for the time will quickly come when he walks alone.” He also added that “if they (the soldiers) do not deem him (the leader) fit to command, he cannot train them to obey.” (See pp. 200-201 and 168, respectively.)

In my 12 years of military service, working as a private, and later as a supervisory noncommissioned officer, and now a commissioned officer, I’ve learned the value of team work. The best leaders—the leader I try to be—surround themselves with people more talented than they are. Every winning team must have skills which no single person possesses alone. The greatest leaders whom I’ve tried to emulate understand as did King Author when he recalled the purpose of the Round Table. Said he, “Violence is not strength, and compassion is not weakness.” (Camelot, the musical play written by Alan Jay Lerner based on a novel by TH White.)

Finally, adroit leaders have the ability to see what cannot be seen, create and achieve it. In their goal-setting they manage projects by proper prioritization, never majoring in the minors. Leaders are not better than others; they only represent and speak for members of the team. They serve alongside those they supervise and they understand human nature. Great leaders praise more than discipline. Quality leaders hold fast to civilized values. Moral leaders make the right choice even when no one else is watching. Genuine leaders inspire and encourage others by example as well as by voice. Real leaders—not just managers or those in positions of authority—admit mistakes, never abuse power, and act tenaciously in all their endeavors; they make tough decisions for the good of the mission and for the benefit of the team before themselves. Lastly, a leader is a leader whether at home or at work, for whom a person is and what a person does in his/her off time will eventually be made manifest on the job to the benefit or detriment of the organization and the team.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Dear Jeff,
Thank you for this post. Even though you and I live lives that might be described as polar-opposites, I still feel inspired in my own role as wife and mother by these words.

Lisa ( JP's wife)