That leadership thing

Just because someone is in a position of leadership it does not mean he or she is a leader. Leadership is earned. A person put in a position of leadership may have a brief honeymoon period, but it can be wasted in an instant.

The military has an unstated rule. The troops eat first. This is a terrific metaphor. They are doing the heavy lifting, so a leader will do what he or she can to make sure the troops are taken care of.

A few rules of thumb to judge what leaders looks like:

– do they defend their team members or do they remain quiet?

– do they throw people under the bus when mistakes occur?

– do they deflect credit to others or assume all the credit?

– do they hide from blame when things go poorly?

– do they treat people with dignity and seek input from multiple sources?

– are they cool under pressure which calms anxious followers?

– do they represent our better angels or our worst?

My son and I watched the excellent movie “Midway” about s highly pivotal naval battle in World War II – if the US lost, the Japanese would have more impunity to attack cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. A key part of the movie was the need to trust intelligence code breakers. Admiral Nimitz (the recently appointed Pacific fleet commander) visited the code breakers to confirm their confidence and methods, asking many questions. It helped him trust their input as a key reason for our success at Midway was we knew the attack was coming on the day it came.

Nimitz went to the sources. It should be noted these same sources told his predecessor of concerns in advance of Pearl Harbor. His predecessor did not heed their concerns and be more alert on December 7, 1941.

With the complexity of our world, leaders need to be editors of lots of information. There is a humility in knowing how much you don’t know. Be very wary of people in positions of leadership who convey a false sense of awareness. There is a Texas term for big talkers – they are all hat and no cattle. They have a big head, but don’t have many steers.

It should be noted an increasing number of corporate leaders are more introverted. The business is more complex and varied, so understanding the moving parts is important. I mention this as we should not assume someone who is more outgoing is a better leader.

We are craving better leaders. The better ones may be the ones who look less like the part.

5 thoughts on “That leadership thing

    • Erika, thanks for the addition. No question. The term I have seen used twice in two days, in a blog and news interview, is decency. Both were contrasting the lack thereof with a certain president versus what was exuded by the testifying diplomats. Keith

      • Amen. Conservative pundit David Brooks likes to say the president lacks a moral compass. Leaders need to be empathetic to people in need. The US president has to high a sense of self ro care about others. He was politicking for the Republican governor in Kentucky last month. He said vote for the candidate because if he loses it will make me look bad. Really? He did lose by the way. Keith

  1. Note to Readers: I should add attacking critics with name-calling and labels is a sure sign of the absence of leadership. Using a common example, just today a staff member of Vice President Mike Pence was labeled a “Never Trumper” because the staffer testified behind closed door that what was witnessed on the Ukraine call was wrong. It should also be noted Ambassador Bill Taylor was begged by Mike Pompeo to take the Ukraine job (after Trump recalled a Marie Yovanovitch, a capable ambassador). Taylor said what the president did was wrong.

    A leader does not publicly besmirch his team. He does not denigrate them to other leaders. But, that is what the president does routinely.

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