November 2, 2013

Can I Just Call This One "Leadership"?

As I was unpacking boxes following our cross-country move, I can upon some of my papers from several years back.  This one caught my attention as I join a new organization and manage the fear and uncertainty that plagues children during a significant life change.

"Leadership is a daunting task, one which is entrusted to a select group of individuals.  In some cases, it is a position granted from above to those who fulfill certain requirements.  As one proves ability and skill, that person is entrusted with more and more responsibility and a greater leadership role.  In all cases, it is a privilege entrusted by one person to another whose ability to manage, inspire, and motivate is greater than his own.  Leaders rise to the top.  Some are given a head start by the schools they complete or the organizations they join.  Some start from the very bottom, working their ways to the top through the people they touch and the accomplishments they make.  Sometimes, these cases coincide and the great leader is recognized from those above and below.  Other times, the viewpoints differ, and the leader's ability is not necessarily appreciated by one end or the other.

"What is more important, to be recognized by those above as a great leader while those subordinate grumble and trudge, waiting for the first opportunity to oust "the boss"?  Or, to win the respect and admiration of those subordinates, but be ignored by those in authority?  If power and advancement is the goal, the former is preferable.  If, however, ensuring the success of the mission is the goal, the latter scenario must prevail.

"The lower a person is on the hierarchy, the more grunt work there typically is in the job description.  Without this grunt work, the task cannot be accomplished.  Thus, as leaders, we must strive to give all those who work for us, at every level, the tools they need to accomplish their missions.  These tools may take the form of information, skills, or even personal advice or moral guidance.  Information and skills come with study, practice, and experience; they can be taught.  Entering the personal realm is much more difficult.  We as leaders must know our people.  We need to have an understanding of what drives them, their strengths, and their weaknesses.  Understanding these characteristics about people can help us focus our efforts and provide them with the specialized, personal attention and care each one needs.  When people know that they are taken care of, both professionally and personally, they will then trust a leader.  With this trust comes commitment, and the committed person will walk through hell for a leader, knowing the leader has given everything possible for a mission's success.

"Everyone wants to advance, and through the empowerment of subordinates a leader will ultimately find favor with those above.  Inspire those below and they will move the earth.  Through his humility the great leader will always credit the organization, but those above will hold him in esteem for his unit's accomplishments, just as they will find him accountable for any failure.

"It is with this philosophy that I view my role as a leader.  People are the most important asset we have in this world.  Without them, progress and industry halt.  If I serve the people under my charge, giving them the tools necessary to succeed and trusting in their creativity and initiative, they will produce astounding results.  Ronald Reagan warned us to "trust, but verify."  Through this trust, the ingenuity of individuals will flourish and the vision of any organization will prevail.

"I have thus far been successful through the application of this philosophy.  I know, however, that it can be improved upon.  I must always listen, consume, adapt, and apply the lessons out there from other people's experiences and wisdom.  Honing my leadership philosophy and skills will lead to a better ability to serve my Marines or any others whose lives are entrusted to me.  Before I can ask for their best, I must offer them my own.  As the gospel of Luke reminds us, 'From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.'"

I wrote this in the context of leading Marines.  It think it clearly applies to leading children, and I hope that I can apply the same diligence to my young girls that I apply to the lives of our young Marines.

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