Leading As If Your Life Depended On It

Chapter 9 Leadership Lessons from West Point edited by Major Doug Crandall

160 – “In situations where followers perceive their lives are threatened, leadership literally defines the promise of future life, and those at risk desperately seek capable leaders. Such high-risk situations are ideal settings to seek and find great leaders and to assess how they might be different from those who lead in more mundane contexts.”

160 – “We have found that men and women who lead other people in places and through situations that most of us would find intimidating, if not outright horrifying, will often behave in ways that may provide insights into our own leadership. We refer to such leaders and situations as in extremis, or ‘at the point of death.'”

160 – “It is important to understand from the outset that examining leadership in these settings is not simply for trigger pullers or daredevils. Instead it is a way of recognizing one of the purest forms of leadership and using that recognition as a starting point for personal growth and development. Any leader can apply in extremis principles across many places and purposes. The life-or-death character of dangerous settings strips away the shallow veneer that all too often covers great leadership and management in our daily lives. Behind that veneer lies a rich array of insights about leadership, forged in the face of fear, and paid for with the blood of heroes.”

161 – “In contrast, in extremis leaders routinely and willingly place themselves in circumstances of extreme danger or threat and, more important, lead others in such circumstances as well. In short, in extremis leaders are self-selected; crisis leaders are not.”

161 – “For leaders in such dangerous callings, the organizational outcomes, consequences, victories, or failures cannot be purchased, faked, or negotiated. The world of in extremis leaders is governed by forces of absolute power: physics, aerodynamics, fire, and weather occupy their physical domain. In the social domain, they face hatred, criminality, and war. Their place in the world is earned through competence, determination, and courage.”

162 – Characteristics of In Extremis Leadership

  • Inherent motivation
  • A learning orientation
  • Shared risk
  • Common lifestyle
  • Competence
  • Ability to develop trust
  • Loyalty in an organization

164 – “Inherently motivated – The danger of the context energizes those who are in it, making cheerleading much less necessary…The potential hostility of the context means that those who work there place a premium on scanning their environment and learning rapidly.”

165 – “Common lifestyle – In an era where there are entire conferences devoted to executive compensation, it was refreshing to focus on authentic leaders who lacked materialism and instead focused on values…People who live and work in dangerous environments learn to love life. They seem to live in a world where value is only loosely attached to material wealth. We believe that in extremis leaders accept, and even embrace, a lifestyle that is common to their followers as an expression of values and that such values become part of their presence and credibility as leaders.”

166 – “Only competence commands respect, and respect is the coin of the realm with in extremis settings.”

167 – “Organizations run by appointed leaders without legitimate competence can muddle through mundane events, but will predictably crumble when pushed in a crisis that poses genuine threat. People in fear of their lives will not trust or follow leaders if they question their competence.”

169 – “Such leaders have worked their entire live developing leadership skills in the worst environments imaginable, making them authentic. One of the most popular academic theories of leadership now emerging is called authentic leadership theory. One of its central precepts is that followers are attentive to, and able to recognize, a lack of sincerity or clumsy impression management strategies that somone trying to lead displays. Authentic leaders are confident, optimistic people, high in character, who are aware of their own thoughts, behaviors, abilities, and values. Many truisms such as ‘wearing their heart on their sleeve’ or ‘what you see is what you get’ are solid representations of authentic leaders.”

174 – “The person in charge of development must sense when failures are an indication of persistent or dispositional flaw. At that point, the developmental path for that individual ends.”

Competence

  • Remember that confidence, not just functional ability, is the goal of in extremis leader development.
  • Always emphasize that trust has to be justly earned.
  • Demand demonstrated flawless performance
  • Know when to pull the plug.

174 – Inherent Motivation

  • Manage Arousal
  • Read other people
  • ‘Embrace the suck’

174 – Learning Orientation

  • Be aware that the environment is trying to kill you.
  • Read other people
  • Share language (Miscommunication kills learning, and it often kills people as well.)

175 – Shared Risk

  • Value selflessness (Self-absorbed loners and extroverted egomaniacs are not people who should be responsible for others in an in extremis setting.)
  • Dissect risk management

175 – Common Lifestyle

  • Build a culture of passion and devotion
  • Explore motivations

176 – “Leadership characteristics developed in such a crucible cannot be purchased; they can only be earned through sustained effort, personal commitment, and risk to life. Difficult as the challenge of in extremis settings might be, an understanding of in extremis leadership shows leader developers the important of authenticity and the in extremis pattern.”

182 – “Competence is the price of entry for anyone hoping to take a leadership role.”

183 – “For an average leader, motivation is a way to make people work harder. For an outstanding leader, motivation is a way to help people work smarter.”

184 – “Mediocre leaders who nonetheless seek organizational effectiveness sometimes develop a variety of impression management strategies to appear selfless, concerned, and humble. Among outstanding leaders, however, selflessness and humility are internalized, that is, part of their character; they are characteristics, not techniques. Such characteristics are not merely things a leader should o. They represent instead what a leader must be. This is one of the major vulnerabilities of leader development training that focuses solely on KSAs. Skills such as decision making, communicating, or planning may simply manifest the character one already has.”

185 – “The important lesson is that how people act when things look bad is an indication of their fundamental relationship with their organization and their leadership. Adversity unifies a strong team and destroys a weak one. Leaders must become adept at reading individuals when the stakes are high, and especially when the future appears dim.”

186 – “You are not a leader unless others depend on you for purpose, motivation, and direction. That phenomenon is about the here and now–and the future.”

186,187 – “If you lead a business or an organization, how much of your ability to lead is based on positional authority rather than people’s desire to be on your team and to accomplish common goals? If you cannot answer that question, it makes sense to assess your influence until you can. It is a rare leader who can organize people with minimal dependence on the basic tools of human resource management: remuneration, reward, working conditions, job security, benefits. But every leader’s goal should be to retain a functional organization through circumstances where those advantages are threatened or nullified.”

187 – “Consider the challenge and depth of commitment assumed by people who serve as in extremis leaders, particularly those in public service. Most of us would agree, almost without thinking, that police officers, firefighters, and military leaders are worthy of respect. It takes some intellectual work, however, to probe the depths of their commitment and understand how it influences followers. No client ever wondered if his or her guide was drafted into the sport. If you play a role in choosing leaders for your organization, choose people who want to lead, not just those who wish to advance.”

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Strength and Courage

Psalm 31

David, the writer, recommends that ones who are faithful to the Lord must be strong and courageous. By all indications, just because you trust God does not mean that all enemies or problems are going to wither away. What I notice from David, is that during these struggles it is tempting to rely upon self rather then depending on God. So David takes into consideration what God is doing for him at the moment.

1. Provides refuge
2. Delivers through righteousness
3. Rock of strength
4. Stronghold
5. Leads and guides
6. Rescues from the enemies trap
7. Provides strength
8. God of truth ransoms David

David’s indicates comfort in knowing that God is aware of the stressful situations that he is enduring. Despite the loneliness David finds in his community (“I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel.”), he continues to trust in God. Rescue in such a deserted part of the soul is only provided by the power of God. David finds a secluded spot and cries out to God to bring an answer. The answer from the Lord is, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the LORD.

mourning into DANCING

Psalm 30

A young leader discovers that desperate situations require desperate prayers to the Lord. The psalmist recognizes his inability to overcome the odds and energetically clings to the one who can and will offer support.

“You have lifted me up”
“You healed me”
“You brought up my soul from sure destruction”
“You have kept me alive”

Recognizing the achievements God has done the psalmist calmly sings praise. The psalmist indicates that it is natural for godly ones to praise the Lord with thanksgiving. He gives us a description of our great God in verse five, “His anger is brief, but His favor is for a lifetime…weeping lasts through the night, but a SHOUT of joy will come forth in the morning.” This kind of reminds me of the spankings I received while living on Clinard Ave. Spankings were miserable, but they were over quickly.

The Psalmist is amazed at the work of God in his life. No doubt, the life that has been established and the legacy that will be left behind is only possible because of the work of God. Although times throughout life seemed very dim for the Psalmist, God’s work in his life changed mundane mourning into proud dance. The Psalmist joyfully danced, sang, and gave thanks to the Lord of all the earth.

This Psalm begs some difficult questions:

1. Do I recognize my need of someone much great than me? God
2. Do I appreciate His swift anger and quick joy?
3. Do I stand amazed at the slight adjustments He is making in my life? Do I understand that these adjustments make His picture far more beautiful then I could dream?
4. When is the last time my mourning turned into DANCING? When is the last time that my soul expressed uncloaked praise and thanks? When is the last time that I have allowed God to shape my praise and thanksgiving rather then my surroundings?

Teaming High-Potential Talent

Chapter 8 Leadership Lessons from West Point edited by Major Doug Crandall

133 – “Unfortunately, the most promising talent often proves to be the most difficult, intransigent team player.”

134 – “Becoming a member of a team means accepting a reduction in personal autonomy. In a team environment, individuals often end up subjugating their own needs for the good of the team. For some people, this can be worse than a reduction in pay. Losing autonomy is uncomfortable for most people raised in individualistic cultures, and particularly so for high performers who have experienced repeated success through autonomous action. They are loath to saddle themselves with a group’s inertia and the potential for reduced performance. they fear the gravity of the lowest common denominator and as a result tend to resist joining teams.”

135 – “To become world champions (US Parachute Team), we had to excel across a number of disciplines. We had to move faster, time our exits better, and synchronize the transitions more tightly. But in the end, teamwork proved to be the essential piece of the puzzle.”

136 – “…understood that to be successful, we would need to tap all of our resources. It would require everyone’s ideas and each individual’s full energy and passion to be applied to the challenge every training day. WE knew from experience that, once established roles and responsibilities would rive people into specific patterns of behavior. We could easily fall into patterns that would suboptimize the use of each individual’s potential. Those in positions of power might begin to take on paternalistic beahaviors, and everyone else would slide into a follower role and become compliant. We had all been on teams where the captain could not sleep at night over concern for the team, while the rank and file came to work each day giving the absolute minimum required. This predictable pattern would not make world champions….Our coach Bob Moore brough the answer…One of the solutions he helped implement in 1994 was a leadership structure that shared responsiblity equally among all team members. We delegated accountability for specific jobs and rotated daily leadership on a schedule that forced each person to take a turn leading and a turn following.”

137 – “For a bunch of Type A personalities, it was the follower role that proved more difficult. For example, on a day when I was slated to take other people’s lead, I would walk into the team room feeling smug. ‘Oh, today is going to be a cakewalk. All I need to do is keep my head down, fly my slot, and be where the captain expects me to be. How easy is that?’ But it was never that easy. I had to struggle and listen hard to understand the captain’s ideas. They were different and inferior to how I would have done things, or so I thought at the time. An inner dialogue would kick up in my head about how poor the plan was and how the captain should be doing things differently. Next thing I knew, my attention had drifted and I was way off plan.”

138 – “Rotating the leadership thrust Mark, our inexperienced leader, into the position of having to anticipate needs, make plans against objectives, and ultimately be responsible for the output of the training. He was accountable if did not make our jumps on schedule or if the preparation was poor and performance suffered. When communication broke down inside the team, he had to facilitate the group through to resolution…Situations like this challenged everyone to step it up and take on the leadership of the team. Days in the captain position challenged the young talent beyond their comfort zone, giving them perspective and humbling their egos. In the end, taking turns being responsible for the team made everyone a better follower.”

139 – “Getting a team to the point where each member feels a deep sense of responsiblity for the group’s combined performance is about generating equality. It requires building a system that treats each person equally with regard to what they have to contribute and how they will be held accountable for results. Sharing leadership is a great method for accomplishing this.”

140 – “To delegate in a way that truly shares leadership requires more than simple task delgation. It is about more than handing out to-do lists to direct reports with deadlines for completion, which will not necessarily generate an environment of accountablity. True delegation is a handing out of responsiblity. A set of objectives is givn to an individual to accomplish, and the individual decides how to go about getting it done.”

143 – “To maintain its standards, GE drops the lowest performers from the program every year. GE ranks all participants based on demonstrated performance and works closely with the bottom 10%. Each of these individuals is told where he or she stands and given additional support to create a set of goals and an execution plan. Anyone whose performance does not move up to the agreed-on level is cut. By relentlessly puring the program of low performers, GE drives the average level of play upward.”

143 – “Double standards erode the efficacy of high standards. High potentials will rarely give their all in an unjust culture.”

145 – “People have a finite well of motivation, and the depth of a person’s well dictates how hard he or she will work and how selflessly. Understanding the reason a recruit is interested in joining a team provides a clue to the depth and quality of his or her motivation.”

147 – “The team learned to listen to each other when individuals disagreed. By actively listening, they began to see the merits and efficacy of opposing points of view.”

148 – “High performers want to be recognized and respected by competent bosses, and they tent to fall in line to get that recognition. We all enjoy positive feedback from our bosses, but is a whole lot more meaningful coming from a competent professional.”

148 – “Talented high potentials can be particularly critical if a leader does not provide clear direction. Nothing erodes respect faster than a wishy-washy leader. Strong, well-articulated direction is crucial.”

149 – ” ‘Like carbon to the diamond, character is the basic quality of the leader,’ says General Edward C. Meyer and former Army chief of staff. The US military develops exceptional leaders through the basic framework of ‘Be, Know, Do’: the Be is about character, the Know is about skills, and the Do is about action.

152 – “Group dialogue and personal introspection work together to help participants see the truth about themselves, and with that comes humility.”

153 – “Difference is an asset. A team is well advised to catalogue who has what skills and aptitudes and position players wisely. Who is an expert at what? Who has experience where? And how do we see the world differently? These are all question a team needs to explore with each other. Understanding around these questions enables the team to position people effectively.”

154 – “One such tenet was what Dr. Bob called ‘real talk.’ He maintained that the only way to manage the daily conflict inherent in a high-speed learning environment was through constant rigorous communication. So with his help, we implemented a comprehensive communication strategy that proved to be the linchpin to our success. In the documentary Airspeed, chronicling the team’s two years of training leading up to the 1999 world meet victory in Corowa, Australia, Kirk was quoted saying, ‘Communication is the one thing that sets this team apart. With it, we can work through anything.’ In the end, communication became a defining element of the team. ‘Real talk’ is open, honest, and timely communication. It is about expressing yourself fully and fully hearing what others are telling you. It is about taking responsibility for your teammate’s development by giving feedback and being able to assimilate and act on feedback given to you. We did just that. We sat around a table in a team-building event the first year we were together and said, ‘If we’re going to pull this off, we’ve got to be able to get in each other’s face whenever someone is out of line. We can’t let stuff slide or we’ll lose.’ Real talk is hard. It may be a soft skill, but when it is really being practiced, it is anything but soft.”

155, 156 – “We need to shine the spotlight of communication on our personal behavior as well. Studies have shown that individuals are the least able to judge the impact that their behavior has on a group. In other words, we are the last to know how we come across to our teammates…Even with all the best intentions, we can be acting in ways that are detrimental to the team’s effectiveness…We are often blind to the impact our behavior is having on the people around us. And those with high potential who have grown accustomed to being right all the time can be particularly blind to their impact…the only way we can get this information is through feedback.”

156 – “Nondefensive listening was another of the team’s basic tenets. It meant that while receiving feedback, you were not allowed to explain or defend your position in that moment. You were to listen intently to everything said, ask questions for clarification only, and signal your understanding. Regardless of the accuracy or validity of the feedback, you were not to respond in any other way.”

158 – “Teams of elite, high-performing individuals can accomplish amazing things. Yet convincing brash, high-potential talented individuals to subordinate their personal agendas for a common goals is not easy.”

158 – “Real talk generates high-speed learning. Open, honest, and timely communication maximizes information flow and confronts individuals where they need attention. It is a challenging and uncomfortable practice that attracts high performers because it deals with reality and demands excellence.”

159 – “Keep in mind that high-performing teams built from elite talent are few and far between because talented individuals have little patience for inept team leadership. If you are going to put one of these teams together, consider carefully what you are doing, or your elite talent will eat you for lunch.”

the VOICE

Psalm 29

Ascribe “to give, to set, to place”

1. Glory
2. Strength
3. Glory due to His name

Voice of the Lord

1. upon the waters
2. thunders
3. powerful
4. majestic
5. breaks the cedars
6. hews out flames of fire
7. shakes the wilderness
8. makes the deer calve

“Everything in the temple says, GLORY”

Leader Development and Self-Awareness in the US Army Bench Project

Chapter 7  Leadership Lessons from West Point edited by Major Doug Crandall

107 – “In order to develop a bench for an organization, effective leader must be strategic and creative thinkers, builders of teams, competent and professional, effective managers, and diplomats. Self-awareness lays the bedrock essential to developing these multiple skills of effective leaders.”

108 – “The Bench, as a key part of this change, createes an environment where individuals seek open, candid, leadership proficiency feedback, not just from superiors but from peers and subordinates as well. To support this climate, leaders and subordinates need to understand that the assessments are only for personal development, are secure, and are seen only by the rated individual.”

108 – “Self-awareness is having an accurate perception ofhow others perceive you. When our self-awarenss is high, a comparison is activated between how we think of ourselves versus how other people see us. Highly self-aware individuals have a more accurate perception of how others perceive them.”

112 – “Effective senior military leaders need the mental flexibility to anticipate, assess, and decisively act to exploit opportunities and meet ever-changing requirements on a dynamic battlefield. To do this, leaders must: be technically and tactically proficient, understand the capabilities and limitation of their organizations and the enemy’s, maintain an optimistic warrior attitude, and effectively manage sleep…In combat, an effective sleep plan helps ensur ethat senior leaders’ primary weapon syste, their mind, is operating at peak efficiency…research has found that leaders who went 24 hours without sleep operated at about 70% of their initial effectiveness, and those who went 48 hours without sleep operated below 60% of their initial effectivenss. As sleep deprivation increases, leaders lose the ability to concentrate and encode information, comprehension and reasoning slow, memory becomes impaired, and communication skills become degraded.”

113 – “delegating and trusting subordinate leaders to handle their assigned responsiblites allows senior leaders to keep focused on the big picture.”

113, 114 – “Leaders who try to handle subordinate leaders’ responsibilities or micromanage direct reports will get lost ‘in the weeds’ and lose perspective on their higher-level responsibilities. When senior leaders place their primary focus on subordinate leaders’ responsibilities, they lose their ability to command effectively. Senior leaders who are focused downward and inside their own organizations are not able to see the battlefield at their level of responsiblity, and they lose temporal focus. This loss of appropriate focus prevents them from identifying and exploiting opportunities, looking deep into the enemy’s formation to set conditions for future success. Thus, they forfeit the initiative to the enemy. Once ‘in the weeds’ or in subordinate leaders’ business, senior leaders are more likely to set priorities and expend resources on objectives that do not efficiently contribute to the accomplishment of their own and the parent organization’s missions.”

114 – “the delegation of responsiblity to subordinate leaders and not engaging in micromanagment helps in all of the following ways:

  • Plays a significant role in helping senior leaders maintain a broad perspective
  • Keeps them focused on their level of responsibilities
  • Facilitates synchronization of effort within the organization
  • Enhances subordinate motivation
  • Fosters the development of trust

114 – “Confidence plays a critical role in the management of stress. Leaders have to believe that they have the capabilities and skills to meet any demands that arise from a dynamic battlefield or business marketplace. The foundation of leader confidence is technical and tactical proficiency. This provides leaders with the knowledge base to creatively solve problems and make sound decisions. Futhermore, leaders’ level of physical fitness plays a significant role in combating stress. Good physical conditioning tends to boslter leaders’ confidence by helping them ward off the reduction in cognitive efficiency associated with long-term exposure to stress.”

115 – “Leader must also ensure that in stressful situations, they are eating and sleeping on a regulat schedule and getting a minimum of 6 hours of sleep a night.”

115 – “leaders’ ability to maintain composure when negative information is provided to them has an impact on communication within the organization. Leaders who lose control when thye receive disturbing information and lash out at the source isolate themselves…the isolation caused by leaders’ inability to handle bad news has a detrimental impact on their opportunities to handle problems in a timely manner.”

116- “Both the intent and mission statements are ciritical for synchronizing purposes and priorities of effort throughout all subordinate organizations.”

116 – Moving Around the Front

  • Keeping abreast of the current situation as seen from the eyes of the subordinates
  • Understanding the organization’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Monitoring morale and the will to fight
  • Streamlining communication with subordinate leaders
  • Demonstrating to subordinates the courage to share the danger and risks with them

118 – “To build subordinate organizations and the staff into a cohesive team, senior commanders should:

  • Work to establish a positive relationship with all subordinate commanders
  • Give each subordinate commander the opportunity to provide feedback on upcoming operations
  • Ensure that they all are in the communication loop to receive important information

Senior commanders should endeavor to make all subordinate commanders feel that they are valuable and contributing members to the organization.”

119 – As retired General Colin Powell has proposed, a commander’s optimism is a force multiplier regarding an organization’s ability and motivation to accomplish a mission, especially in tough circumstances.”

121 – “Competent leaders who are technically and tactically proficient and properly allocate resources are able to maximize the training productivity of individual soldiers and increase the competency level of the entire organization.”

125 – “Senior NCO leaders must develop the ability to think ahead in order to anticipate the unit’s future needs.”

127 – “Integrity is achieved when leaders act in accordance with their own and the organization’s values. A key aspect of integrity is being honest in both word and deed. Integrity is a central character trait and greatly influences perceptions of a leader’s crediblity.”

129 – “Organizational leadership focuses on systems. This level of leadership competencies helps create purpose and direction for the organization by aligning the goals of the organization with sytems to support subordinates. Often organizational leaders exert influence through others by establishing organizational structures, building teams, setting high standards and setting the example, and pormoting an ethical and developmental climate. These traits are seen in successful senior leaders.

Individual leadership focuses on people. It is sometimes called ‘muddy boots’ leadership because of the direct nature of the influence. This level of leadership concerns competencies that demonstrate a desire to achieve personal goals–your own and those of others—within a moral and ethical environment.”

129 – “Communication skills are one competency that spans all levels of leadership.”

129 – “A second trend across all levels of leadership is the ability to operate under pressure. Operating in a stressful environment taxes one’s coping and decision making ability. As a result, individuals fall back on their experiences and their character. When leaders are seen as making sound and timely decisions, in high pressure situations, subordinates learn to trust the decision making of their superiors resulting in higher overall performance under all conditions.”

129 – “Values-based leadership is integral to building and sustaining trust between subordinates and leaders. Morality, values, and integrity are the foundation upon which we are able to be successful leaders.”

Crying is a Response to Trust

Psalm 28

The Psalmist, David, is anxious for the Lord to hear his cry. David’s cry would be heard in the heavens. David was in need due to enemies lurking around every corner. Note characteristics of the enemies: work evil things, speak peace but devise evil inwardly, perform wicked deeds, and practice evil. The cause is found in verse five, “Because they do not regard the works of the LORD nor the deeds of His hands,…”. The believer finds help in the Lord when he/she trusts Him. I think about my two girls and how they cry when injured. However, the reason they cry stems from an expected response from dad, mom, or both. They trust dad & mom will be able to make it better or hug them in the pain. Just as Rachel & Jordan expect by trust for mom and dad to respond to their cry so we expect the Lord to respond to our cry. Do you cry to the Lord? If not, it is probably a result of doubt.