Drop and give me 200…seconds!
Asleep at the Wheel
Leadership is a dynamic process and a learned trait. All of us are born with a certain amount of talent in a variety of different areas. What we do with that talent based on our skill we put into it (practice) is what eventually will define us. You would rather be the person that has gone above and beyond with limited talent then the one with all the talent and little to show for it. That all being said I think it’s absolutely critical that leaders at every level know what’s going on around them and take responsibility for their actions and those under their charge. Look, there will always be things that happen that are out of your control; things you don’t directly manage or affect. However, responsibility falls back to the “leader” and President Harry S. Truman said it best when he declared “The buck stops with me.”
No leader wants to be embarrassed, ridiculed or exposed in a scenario where they seem as if they had no idea, training, or experience into what happened. Murphy’s Law comes into play at times and “stuff happens;” how you deal with that as a leader will define you. President John F. Kennedy had his own issues when he took office in January 1961. He immediately was thrust into the debacle known as the “Bay of Pigs.” This operation actually began in the Eisenhower administration and captained by the CIA. The plan was to use counter-revolutionary insurgents (Cuban exiles) trained by the U.S. to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba. As history tells us this was a complete disaster and many feel JFK was pressured into the invasion from his more experienced senior civilian and military advisors. Afterwards JFK didn’t deflect the issue to a previous administration, or to advisors that were possibly misinforming him in the hopes of making him look bad. Rather JFK went on the air and took public responsibility for the failed invasion and said “…we got a big kick in the leg and we deserved it. But maybe we’ll learn something from it.” People are not dumb; they can accept the truth and most often will welcome it regardless of how hard it is. Key note: the highest point of JFK’s Presidential approval ratings came in wake of Bay of Pigs disaster. Despite the embarrassing admission the White House made about the U.S. involvement in the botched invasion, JFK actually received a bounce in his approval ratings. It’s also important to note JFK then fired three top CIA officials immediately after this failed invasion.
Now there are hundreds of other leadership examples out there and you can each do your own research and form your own opinions. Taking responsibility for not only your actions but also the actions of the people and situations you are overall responsible for, shows that you are “manning the helm” and being answerable. When you don’t take responsibility, or defect accountability, or make counter accusations, all you do is display the perception that you’re “asleep at the wheel.” As a leader, you have to keep abreast on what’s happening around you. Many times we surround ourselves with very smart and extremely competent people. The advantage of this is you can give these folks a direction and distance and they can get the task accomplished with little guidance. The disadvantage is the left and right limits of the task sometimes get wider, making the target objective larger, slowing the effort. Then you also have what I like to call the “good idea fairy” that comes into effect; beware of this! The good idea fairy only complicates the process by adding layers to the objective when you should be “staying the course.” Simply, plan your fight (task) and then fight (execute) the plan! If there are changes to be made then take time to make sure it’s the right change and don’t make change because you hit a speed-bump. Key note: we would often say in the military “don’t scrap the plan at the first sign of gun-fire. This is to be an expected part of what we do.” The same goes for business.
If you’re a leader at any level, know what’s happening around you. Manage, don’t micro-manage. Ask questions (a lot of questions), look for multiple solutions, and regardless if you made a particular decision or not, its your responsibility to be accountable for it. You may get it wrong from time to time but the leadership value you will learn will assist in your expertise moving forward.
I never kept count of the times I was wrong, all that does is eat at your spirit and fuel a negative leadership style. What I always do remember is standing there and being accountable for the men and women under my charge and my decisions and their actions. Believe me, that’s what they will remember most!
I look forward to your comments and an always, Lead From the Front! Hooah!