By JACK WELCH
When it comes to leadership, everyone has his or her own ideas about what success looks like. Yet so often, we forget that success is achieved not just by results but through the eyes of those we lead.
I have been leading people far longer than I would like to admit, but it was in my early Army days that I first learnt about the four tenets of leadership a commander must master to run a platoon: agility, initiative, depth and synchronisation.
I have carried these tenets with me and instilled them in the organisations I have held positions of leadership in after I left the Army.
After living them through the sands of Desert Shield/Desert Storm, I can testify that you do not need to be in the heat of battle to unite your team using these principles.
As I have moved away from the battleground and into the boardroom, I have adopted the tried-and-true tenets from the Army to apply to today’s ever-changing and demanding professional team environment.
In today’s business world, agility is an essential part of any organisations’ skill set. After all, how many of your business plans actually go the way you envisioned them?
Though I don’t have any professional statistics, experience tells me that most do not.
Yet as a leader, you must be unflappable and able to react to situations, either because of prior experience or be composed enough to quickly analyse the situation and develop new plans to solve problems as they arise.
How many times have we seen a competent leader that quickly shifts gears and effortlessly develops a new strategy in a difficult situation?
In this instance, how does this behaviour impact an organisation?
Being agile is an important aspect of leadership because as you demonstrate and train this behaviour in the people that work with you, many will adopt the same approach when dealing with issues – which in turn will make for a stronger team and better working environment for everyone in the organisation.
After all, when faced with a predicament, you want your people looking to you for solutions, not running away to hide.
This is the most important quality that you can instil in the people who work with you.
In doing this, you are actually training people how to solve problems and become the future leaders of the team.
In many cases, people who work with us know more about the processes than those of us who manage them.
Yet, they have often been conditioned not to make a decision without receiving approval because previously they have been negatively reinforced for making decisions without seeking authorisation.
In the past, when I have been called with questions requesting approval in these situations, my response on many occasions has been, “What do you think we should do?”
Most of the time, the associate provided a solid answer that would solve the problem. My next question was, “If you knew what to do, then why did you call me?”
On the first few occasions associates are asked this question, they are unsure of how to answer.
Yet, after a few instances of allowing associates to solve their own problems, I started receiving calls that stated, “I had this problem and I did the following to solve it. I just wanted to keep you informed.”
When you allow people to solve their own problems, it demonstrates that you trust them and gives them a great deal of satisfaction.
While I know that all problems cannot be solved this way, think of how many times those that you work with could merely have kept you informed rather than ask you what to do.
How much time would it save or allow you to work on other important tasks?
Try this technique out and see how people respond.
In the Army, we had depth in our units because you did not know when the leadership was going to be taken out of action by the enemy.
In the business world, we do not fear something this drastic.
However, as we know and have unfortunately endured, key leaders are often recruited away to other departments or companies for promotions.
If you are teaching people the skills of leadership that have been previously discussed, how much easier would a transition be?
One of the worst situations a team can find itself in is being crippled because of the loss of a key team member.
Allowing people to learn your position and the positions of others around them often allows the organisation to have multiple viewpoints on how processes are implemented and tasks are accomplished.
This skill will lead to innovative ideas coming from all levels of your organisation and when ideas are adopted, it reinforces team members taking initiative and increases the bench strength of the organisation.
Synchronising is the art of being a conductor.
In most of the businesses we work in, products are manufactured overseas or on off-site facilities and must be transported to another location where they are either assembled or displayed for customers to use or purchase.
So, if the entire process is not integrated, the entire business unit will fail.
If trucks do not leave warehouses in time to transport products to a vendor, relationships can be damaged. I believe all of us have lived through this before and the aftermath of trying to clean up the mess.
When training people, they must understand that as a team and an organisation, the end result must be coordinated with others for it to be successful.
Again, this is where training people to be agile helps because, as previously discussed, how your team handles problems will directly impact how others relate to them.
Learning this skill also instills in others that they must work well with others and be integrated into other business units to be successful.
By teaching the importance of synchronisation, leaders will develop stronger teams that will win.
Tying it all in
While these tenets of leadership alone will not create a winning organisation, the use of these concepts will certainly begin to create an atmosphere of inclusiveness and boost the importance of everyone in the organisation to create strong teams that are productive and able to compete in today’s ever-changing business environment.