The army taught me a concept or two about leadership.
What did I learn? Show up, reach out and connect. These tenants of leadership are the cornerstone for making an impact and achieving results. When these three acts are evident, followers take notice and ready themselves for progress whether it’s in boardrooms, shop floors, office pools or battlefields. Presence adds direct as well as indirect value to a solid leadership posture.
In 1982, while on active duty, I spent a year stationed in Seoul Korea as a First Lieutenant and aDetachment Unit Commander. My soldiers were positioned at other bases throughout the South Korean peninsula, to include one in close proximity to the DMZ- Demilitarized Zone (on the border with North Korea).
Many were taking bets on whether I would venture through the security areas to visit them in this austere setting. Responding, I went and even spent the night, rising the next morning to go running with my soldiers. This move strengthened their belief that I was concerned about who and where they were—not a leader stuck in the confines of comfort and safety in Seoul.
My soldiers and I bonded, creating trust while also providing me the opportunity to hear about their
challenges. And I confess, this trip conquered my own reticence to go north! Leadership results: an improvement in morale was noted by my boss (a Colonel) and other staff members, something we’d all agreed was a mission concern at the beginning of my tenure in this assignment. Overall cooperation and performance among soldiers were highlighted as well.
A leader’s personal footprint is powerful—building on other spiritual principles of humanity and service. For instance, the references to touching and agreeing can be found in Biblical scripture. Verses tell us that if at least two people confirm a shared desired goal, with God in the center, it can be accomplished. As in faith, leadership involves standing firm in your principles. To further expound on these three leadership principles that stand tested through time:
Lead – Guide others towards an objective. From a critical project, organizational imitative to a family vacation, the skill sets of organization and vision are needed to move the effort forward. Keep in mind that leadership is a personality business as much as it is a skill set. The confidence to put your whole self into this work is important.
Touch – Go where the people are. A face or visual sends a clear message of caring. But don’t show up only when something is awry. Check in periodically for a people moment. The “how are things going,” common interest news, or an event remembered conversation rank high marks among followers. Stop by desks or work sites. When geographically separated, use Skype or other technology to show thyself the leader. In those interactions, be an authentic self.
Agree – On commitments or responsibilities, find the common denominator. Stay with the issue until clarity is achieved. Then march strongly towards the objective.
Like many approaches to leading, each person takes it on in their unique stride. So now here are a couple of questions to think about. What’s your leadership posture? Can you agree to show up and connect?