“Ah! Freedom” I said to myself when I finally left my institute of learning “No more being told what to do … no more rules and regulations … Life, the way I want it to be!”
Ah! The innocence of youth!
Because the first thing I had to do was get a job. The funny thing about being free is that ‘stuff’ isn’t … free that is. And Life without ‘stuff’ is not to be contemplated, especially when you are part of a ‘teenage rebellion’.
So I got myself a job; and guess what? There was someone who told me what hours I had to work; another who told me how much I was to be paid; and someone else who was detailed to be my day-to-day advisor. I was free … free to do as I was told … and boy was I bored.
Then walking past a lighted window on a cold and rainy winter’s day in
England I was caught by the large poster of a servicewoman enjoying life in sunnier climes. I was hooked, went straight in and joined. And guess what? I was being paid less but now I had a lot more people telling me what to do!!
Life in the military really gives you an idea about what leadership is all about from both sides of the equation. I have been the ‘one being told’ and I have been the ‘one doing the telling’ and believe me the latter is the better.
However, an organisation which has all chiefs and no Indians gets absolutely nowhere … fast! So let me tell you about leadership from the other side.
Instead of considering “what leaders do” or even “what leaders want’- let’s take a few moments out of our busy day to consider ‘what those that are being led expect” – because this is the real test of getting things done.
Have you noticed that every group, social or otherwise, ends up with a chief, a leader? It doesn’t matter whether it is a group of school friends, or a volunteer group of guide leaders, one person is going to assume the mantle of the group leader. It can be informal, in that it is loosely understood by everyone in the group, that so-and-so will have the last say and we will all end up doing what they propose; or it can be formal, so that regardless of the ability of the others, it will be the one with the position or rank that will be the decider.
Image from telegraph.co.uk
Now, there are some people who have a natural understanding of how to work with others, some who seem to instinctively know precisely how to get willing agreement and enthusiastic support for their ideas. And then there are the others ….!
I have met both in my military career, and I noticed that from my point of view the former had some distinctive traits that made it very easy for me to cooperate with them.
First they actually knew who I was. That is not so common, especially in larger groups; and I mean more than just knowing my name. They knew what I liked and where my strengths lay; as well as understanding those aspects of the job I had trouble with. They offered me opportunity to expand my knowledge and encouraged me to reach out and grasp that opportunity. They were great mentors.
Secondly, they gave real recognition for work done; even if it was a simple “well done” But I recall, even now after all this time, one officer who on being congratulated on an idea that had proved successful admitted that it was my idea. I would have followed him through hell and high water (as the saying goes) after that. Those I followed willingly were appreciative of our efforts, and gave us due recognition. They were great motivators.
Thirdly, we were listened to. They sought our opinion and listened to it. “It’s those on the ground who have to do the job who really know how it should be done” was one officer’s mantra; and consequently his team had the opportunity to suggest changes that really worked as they came from those who were actually doing the work. These leaders were inclusive participators.
Then there were the others…. when we were kept like mushrooms, in the dark. When we were left in ignorance if our work was satisfactory until the PR66 came out and we found it wasn’t! When we were silenced and treated like fools, until we became the fools we were treated like. These times were dreadful, the atmosphere was poisonous and very little of worth got done.
Incredibly in this day where the emphasis is on training, the frightening fact was that both types of officers had done the same training, attended the same lectures, and participated in the same exercises.
What was the difference? Well I think it is blindingly obvious! Despite all the theory of leadership there is still a large element of personality that impacts on performance.
I am not saying that it cannot be learned, but too often I have found that it is still the practicalities of leadership that are studied and rarely the personality of leadership. There is still more weight given to ‘what to do’ and not enough on ‘how to do it‘ – this takes leadership one step further.
Are you a leader? If so, what is your aim – to be a figure head or to get things done? Because if you want to get things done, you need to be the leader that goes that one step further – and you can take that fact from one who spent a long time being led!
Michele @ Trischel