After watching the Army-Navy football game this weekend, which my alma mater lost for the third straight year, I was reminded of the leadership lessons I learned during my four years as a Midshipmen at the Naval Academy.
It started on the evening of Induction Day which was exactly seventeen days after I graduated from high school. I was sitting in the Mahan Hall auditorium with 1,329 of my newly introduced classmates to hear a welcoming speech from Rear Admiral James F. Calvert. We sat spellbound as our Superintendent issued his first of many challenges. “I am going to talk to you about three things tonight that will separate you from your civilian counterparts during your time at the Naval Academy. Commitment, accountability, and the Honor Concept.” Those words ring as clear to me today as they did then and have become the bedrock of a leadership style I have tried to pass on throughout my careers in the Navy and in business. What he was trying to instill in us was the need to stand for something, and as an individual to be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions. Some of the finest military, civilian, and government leaders seem to have forgotten these basic tenants. What did Jim Calvert tell us that those leaders, and others have forgotten? How can his message sustain current and future leaders?
The global workforce will continue to be diverse, dispersed, and part time. In order to survive and prosper in this environment, leaders will need to establish themselves quickly, and instill in their colleagues a common, well-focused purpose. Followers want to know who you are, what you are about, and why/how you do things. They are not interested in your rules, but the broad-based principles from which you operate. Having been one of Admiral Rickover’s original nuclear power students, skipper of the first submarine to surface at the North Pole, and the author of books about the experience, Admiral Calvert knew the subject matter well. Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, expanded on these thoughts with his writings on principle-centered leadership.
Everyone needs to have a passion for what they want to accomplish – all the time, not just part of the time. You need to give 100%+ when you are on the job. Too many people think that it is acceptable to work the office football pool or the youth baseball league schedule on company time. You are just cheating yourself and your fellow workers. Leadership, and followership, encompass every action or reaction that you take on a daily basis. People receive and process this information to understand the real you, and what you stand for. If you espouse quality but allow inferior products to ship to meet quarterly revenue targets you will be branded a hypocrite. Are you willing to be a mentor for someone, because you truly care about his or her success, or because your boss told you to? Do you take time off for family events – birthdays, anniversaries, school conferences, or would you rather have drinks with the office crowd? Live the things that you stand for and do it every day. Do not just talk about them in lofty terms in a vision or mission statement.
A study of business leaders revealed that after checking the morning newspaper business section they went directly to the sports page. What better way to complement the rise/fall of stock prices than with win/loss records, batting averages, ERAs……results. Leaders take responsibility for the actions of both their people and themselves, while turning losses into on the spot learning experiences. It is not hard to accept the accolades of winning, but people run for cover when it is time to dole out accountability or punishment for making a large mistake. An adroit sales Vice President I know always says, “Whenever a ship misses the harbor, it is rarely the harbor’s fault.” Are you holding yourself and your people accountable? All the time?
HONOR CONCEPT/BUSINESS ETHICS
The fact that business schools have begun teaching ethics courses shows the magnitude of the challenge. Helping others understand how to “do the right thing” can be a daunting effort from which a leader cannot shrink. Integrity and honesty are principles that need reinforcement directly from the leader. It is how one establishes personal trust and ensures that the entire organization is working from a common bedrock. Working and socializing with people who share and live these same values is the best way to ingrain these ideals in the workforce. Military leaders know on the field of battle that a breach of trust costs lives. Business leaders need to take a similar view of how their actions affect the company’s most valuable asset-their people.
None of these principles are revolutionary in their thinking but all require discipline to implement. The benefits that derive from this leadership model include:
- Facilitates teamwork and shared leadership
- Accelerates decision making and action
- Establishes a positive, common basis for working together
- Encourages open, active communication
I am sure that you have worked for and with leaders over the course of your career that you have emulated. Why did they stand out, and are you doing the same for your people? What was the essence of how they lead? I would suggest that their actions embodied the shared values that they left with each of the organizations, and the people that they touched. The size of the group or their individual titles did not make the difference, it was the core values that they shared on a daily basis and their solid leadership in tough times. Do you do the same thing?
At The Bailey Group, we are always excited to talk about leadership and values. Give us a call or send me an email to continue the conversation.
And by the way the next Army-Navy football game is less than a year away. We’ll get ‘em next time! Beat Army!!!