What Is Courage? (Part II)

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Mickey is moving his household from Hawaii to Texas. While he’s moving, please enjoy these posts from last year, and remember “The Five Be’s” Second Edition comes out in September! 

Last week, I brought you Part I of a discussion of courage from my book, The Five Be’s This week I conclude with some stories about courage.

__

Plane_crash_into_Hudson_River_(crop)Can you learn to be courageous? More to the point, can you learn to control fear? Yes, you can. Learning to be courageous has a great deal to do with being prepared. When you have analyzed the “fight or flight” instinct as it relates to the situations you might face, you are much less likely to make a snap decision based on emotion, instead tapping into the wellspring of courage that all people possess. In a way, physical courage is the easiest to understand. We can see the danger being faced, and are able to prepare for it. We can physically prepare, mentally rehearse our response, hone our skills, and work in a team with others. This is applicable to battle scenarios, emergency situations, or even on the sports field. That preparation is key to suppressing the fear response.

When Air Force Academy graduate, former fighter pilot, and USAir Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed USAir Flight 1549 in the Hudson, he said in an interview with 60 Minutes that moments before the crash were “the worst sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the-floor feeling” that he had ever experienced. However, he and his crew had practiced emergency landings with such diligence, that they were able to put that fear aside and skillfully control the emergency landing. His team saved the lives of everyone on board the flight because they didn’t succumb to fear. Instead, they controlled their fear.

To paraphrasing a chief master sergeant that I served with during my Air Force career, “Few rise to the occasion in combat. Rather, they sink to the level of their training.” The way the military values training, especially the repetition of so-called “perishable skills”, is an indicator of the value of preparation. Soldiers expect to face danger, and prepare themselves against fleeing from it. The procedures are rehearsed over and over again until it becomes second nature.
I think courage comes from a well within our Human Spirit. It stems from more than mere biology, since we are more than mere flesh and bone. If humans were only biological machines, would there be an ability to create beauty, love, or be able to discern truth from lies? Biology certainly plays a role in who we are – after all, we are not disembodied spirits – but it cannot offer the entire answer. Courage, like other Universal Human Goods, comes from both our biology and our human spirit.

A sense of duty and fraternal love contributes to courage, as does the nearly universal human social need to be accepted among a social group. Soldiers who exhibit courage in combat situations most often report that they were “just doing their jobs” and “didn’t want to let their teammates down.” We call that “duty” and “loyalty”, these qualities are among the most prized of human virtues.

People are willing to endure considerable hardship when they know that others are depending upon them. When that social pressure includes life and death situations, the sense of duty becomes even stronger. Oftentimes, our sense of duty –will override the fear instinct. That is where true courage originates. Ultimately, courage is an act of love. It’s the love of others above self that will motivate people to endure hardship and brave danger in order to protect others. Without love, there can be no courage.

The Olympic gymnast is another example, though slightly different. The fear of injury and even death is real, but not from other teams. The gymnast must first conquer himself. In a real way, gymnasts must first conquer gravity before they can even approach the “inner voice”. Like any sport, being an Olympic level gymnast requires constant dedication and sacrifice. It requires subordination of fear, heights, and pushing pain completely out of the mind to focus on the task at hand. In addition, teammates are depending on a high score. Years of 4 a.m. practices, foregoing social interactions and activities, arriving at the single moment where the difference between a gold medal and no medal is a fraction of a point. If the gymnast makes a mistake in the Olympics, he’s not only risking injury, he’s letting his country down.

Lastly, consider the courage of the cancer or rehabilitation patient. Both must rise daily with the knowledge they will face pain that day. For the cancer patient, that struggle is an actual fight for their life. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are very hard to endure. There are days of nausea and pain each time. Choosing to fight their disease rather than succumb to it takes a daily dose of special courage. Similarly, the amputee or accident victim who goes to physical therapy knowing they face hours of pain just to hope they reacquire skills they once took for granted takes courage. Wounded Warriors in rehab face weeks or even months of painful therapy to learn to walk again, or feed themselves, or hug their lived ones. People who have suffered physical or psychological trauma must daily choose not to let their injuries define them, The alternative is to cease to live. That is courageous as well.

Overcoming pressure, the fear of mistakes, and the very real fear of severe injury requires physical courage. To be an Olympian is to find the courage to succeed even when success is elusive, to manage fear for years in a single-minded purpose to stand on the winner’s podium.


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and blogs.

Book Review: Warrior to Patriot Citizen Transition

Posted Posted in Books

Great guide for transition to civilian lifeAs an author and milblogger, I get the opportunity to review books from time to time. Rarely, however, have I reviewed a book that was so personally timely and beneficial as Warrior to Patriot Citizen by Donna Hoffmeyer and Kevin Cullis. It’s a comprehensive resource for any military servicemember transitioning to civilian life, either as a retiree like me or separating after a single enlistment. There’s a lot of transition guides out there, but this one is truly one of the best I’ve read.

Hoffmeyer and Cullis are both fellow USAF Airmen: she an 18 year veteran nurse of with both active duty and reserve time, and he a veteran, author, and self-described “business geek”.  Both authors combine their considerable experience in and out of the military to produce this great guide to success in transition.

Well Organized

I appreciate the organization of the book a lot. The book has a logical flow, and is divided into relevant chapters addressing the transition both into and out of the military, dealing with injury and wounds suffered on active duty as a veteran, taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and financially, translating military skills into civilian skills, and the art of networking. Twelve chapters in all, including an entire chapter dedicated to web resources organized by topic. At the end of each chapter there’s pages for assembling a personalized action plan, and organizing your thoughts. This enables the veteran to go directly to the chapters most relevant to your own situation.

Different Kind of Guide

What makes this guide different–and I think better than other guides–are the personal notes each author adds to the chapters. In addition, there’s two whole chapters dedicated to “lessons learned” and success stories from other veterans. The advice in Chapter 11 “Veteran’s quips, advice, and letters” is from both officers and enlisted personnel, and from all Services. There’s some very handy tips in there, like these:

“Set goals, do not expect to get what you want overnight, work smart; network, network, network. Get involved in volunteer work and help your fellow veterans, take courses, use online information to your advantage…” – W.G., 21 year USMC vet

“You will have failures; expect them. Know that they are learning experiences. Don’t shy away from trying something for fear of failure. In the military, you are trained better than you will be in the future corporate world…You will sometimes fail but you are not a failure.” -J.B., 4 year USAF vet.

This is a fabulous guide that I’ll have with me throughout my transition back to civilian life, and I recommend it highly to anyone making the change to “permanent civilian status” after a military career.

Buy it Here

Warrior to Patriot Citizen is available on Amazon at this link.

Visit www.wariortopatriotcitizen.com for more resources.


Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

 

Leaders are Readers – Your Summer Reading List

Posted Posted in Books

Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers. -Harry S. Truman

As a student at both Air Command and Staff College and National Defense University’s  Eisenhower School, I was privileged to hear dozens of accomplished national leaders speak. Generals, Supreme Court justices, Congressional representatives and senators, leaders in industry. We even heard from two sitting presidents. They came from very diverse walks of life and professions but all had a number of things in common: they were all early risers, intellectually agile, often men and women of faith, and committed to their families and to the country. They were also all–to person–voracious readers.

I’m Busy! Why Spend Time Reading?

Noted Victorian era moralist and author G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Learn from others’ mistakes, you don’t have time to make them all yourself.” It’s one of my favorite quotes and it underscores the need to spend time learning from others. For busy military professionals, or leaders in any profession, that means devouring books and publications to gain the benefit of others perspectives. Reading books, blogs, and periodicals are ways to help develop perspective, particularly on current events. Our teams count on us as leaders to have perspective and not act rashly or out of ignorance. I know it seems basic, but spending time with a book gives us the chance to cross space and time to listen to others voices. It allows us to put current events in context, and gives us tools to process things going on around us. 

What Should I Read?

The easy answer to the question, “What should I be reading?” is everything. Leaders, particularly at the executive level, should be versed in history, politics, economics, and science. These subjects are key to understanding the environment as well as the motivations of others. Of course, I’ve written many times that leaders are in the people business. The better we understand people, both individually and as a group, the better we’ll be at motivating and inspiring people to high achievement. Of course, “man does not live by bread alone,” so your leadership reading library should also include fiction, especially literature. These books form the the basis of much of our culture (whether we know it or not), and culture sets the framework for what people value. Popular entertainment has it’s place, of course, but have you ever heard anyone read a book and then say, “the movie was better”?

Military Leaders Reading List

A question I’m asked often, is “what books do you recommend?” The list is always evolving, of course, but here’s a few books that almost always appear on my lists. If you have an add for the list, tell us in the comments below!

The Defense of Hill 781, James R. McDonough.

Army Colonel James McDonough examines leadership through a fantasy allegory of an infantry officer in Purgatory until he leads his mechanized task force to victory over the demons inhabiting the battlefield. Great leadership lessons.

War as I Knew It, General George S. Patton, Jr.

No list is complete without this candid memoir from one of America’s greatest wartime commanders. Filled with historical tidbits and lessons applicable to executive leadership in any large organization, this one is a must read.

Empire by Default: The Spanish-American War and the Dawn of the American Century, Ivan Musicant.

America’s entry into the world stage at the end of the 19th Century was not a smooth one. Lessons about leading among peers at very senior levels, logistics preparation and management, organizational dynamics, and leading when you’re on your own abound in this interesting read.

The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers, Gillian Tett.

In this book, Tett uses the 2008 financial crisis as a case study in organizational culture. She points out that very large and respected international corporations lost trillions of dollars because of their inability to communicate clearly across internal teams or “silos.”  

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, General Stanley McChrystal.

In my mind this is the definitive work for working in a globally networked organization. Gen McChrystal talks about his successful campaign against Al Qaeda in Iraq. He created a network of special operators and support forces that rapidly leveraged intelligence and technology, coupled with the expertise of the world’s greatest special operations forces, to crush the insurgency in Iraq.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

Written by two former SEAL officers, this book is a “how to” manual on small unit leadership. It’s a candid recounting of battlefield successes and mistakes, and how those leadership lessons apply to both military and civilian environments alike.

The Art of Positive Leadership, John E. Michel.

Written by the General Leadership Foundation’s own Brig Gen (ret) John Michel, The Art of Positive Leadership is a series of essays written mostly during his time in Afghanistan. Michel gives great tips for inspiring high performance even during stressful situations.

And finally, I humbly submit my own flagship leadership book:

Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey Addison

Developed over a 30 year military career and a lifetime of leading, Leading Leaders lays out the foundation for character-based leadership. Illustrated through personal stories and anecdotes, I believe this books is a must read for anyone who wants to improve their productivity and their character.

Happy Reading!

Originally posted on General Leadership

Want to see the full “crowdsourced” reading list? Check out this page!


Mickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and writes for his own blog and GeneralLeadership.com.

Sign up for my mailing list and get Mickey’s Rules for Leaders ebook as a thank you!

 

Book Excerpt: Handle Personal Matters Personally

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books, Leadership by Experience

I’m pleased to present another excerpt from my book, Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams about the importance for senior leaders to do some things personally:

Paperback Cover - FrontIn my own experience as a leader, I have often been surprised at how much impact little things have on people. Each year former and current students from my alma mater, Texas A&M, gather together on the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto to commemorate fellow Aggies who have died during the year. Aggies have been gathering at Muster ceremonies around the world each year since 1922. When I was a young officer on the Pacific Air Force’s staff in Hawaii, I was the chairman of our local Texas A&M Association of Former Students’ Muster Committee. As it happened, General Pat Gamble, the commanding general, was also a Texas Aggie (’67), so we invited him to attend Muster. He was able to come by for a few minutes before heading off to an official function. Our guest speaker that night was another Aggie, Dr. Don Powell (’56), a famous cartoonist who contributed to the Texas A&M school newspaper for a generation. Dr. Powell was the author of a cartoon entitled “dp” that depicted a lovable cadet and his sidekick. It was a cherished memory of days gone by, especially if you were an Aggie sports fan like me. As souvenirs for the evening, Dr. Powell signed copies of his cartoons, so I asked him to sign a “dp” cartoon for General Gamble. Dr. Powell graciously obliged.

The next day at work, I quickly typed up a short note thanking the general for coming to Aggie Muster, attached the signed cartoon, and delivered it to the general’s secretary. I didn’t expect to hear from the general again; after all, he commanded a vast organization responsible for protecting the airspace across the entire Pacific Ocean with thousands of Airmen and hundreds of airplanes, and I was a mere captain. But sure enough, in a day or two I received a handwritten note card with a thank you from the general. That act of kindness—and good manners—made a big impression on me. That handwritten note probably took General Gamble a couple of minutes to write. He likely forgot about it as soon as he’d done it, but to this day that note is the reason I still don’t sign form “letters of appreciation” prepared by my staff. Countless members of my own units have received handwritten notes all because years ago a very busy man took a couple minutes to write a personal note to me.

I have come to believe in the power of the personal touch when leaders interact with their teams. People may say they don’t care about what their leaders think about them, but my experience tells me the opposite. It matters when a leader takes the time to personally recognize excellence and when the leader shows interest in the team members’ families and personal lives. Certainly there is a line that one shouldn’t cross, like dating subordinates or asking uninvited personal questions about family, faith, or politics, but treating people like people who have their own interests and relationships instead of cogs in the machine means leaders should handle some things personally.


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and blogs.

3 Military Books Every Leader Should Read

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books, Throwback Thursday

wingman3Actually, I think there’s way more than three, but since everyone is busy, I’ve narrowed it down to a few.

1.  War As I Knew It, Gen George S. Patton, Jr.

The famous WWII general’s memoirs has loads of lessons in leadership, showing initiative, and strategic thinking. Very interesting reading that dispels a lot of myths about one of America’s most celebrated and successful 5-star generals, and delivers some nuggets about leading.

2.  This Kind Of War, T.R. Ferhenbach

A history of the Korean War written in narrative/story style that teaches about followership and first line leadership, with a healthy dose of valor for inspiration. It’s a gripping account of a war America was unprepared to fight told from a variety of perspectives from the individual soldier to the commanding general. Lessons in personal courage and strategy.

3. The Defense Of Hill 781, James R. McDonough

An allegory of modern combat that I made required reading when I was a squadron commander. Leadership lessons about leading a complex organization, taking over as a new leader, and overcoming obstacles to forge a team…with a helping of black humor as well.

What Is Courage? (Part II)

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books

Last week, I brought you Part I of a discussion of courage from my book, The 5 Be’s for Starting Out This week I conclude with some stories about courage.

__

Plane_crash_into_Hudson_River_(crop)Can you learn to be courageous? More to the point, can you learn to control fear? Yes, you can. Learning to be courageous has a great deal to do with being prepared. When you have analyzed the “fight or flight” instinct as it relates to the situations you might face, you are much less likely to make a snap decision based on emotion, instead tapping into the wellspring of courage that all people possess. In a way, physical courage is the easiest to understand. We can see the danger being faced, and are able to prepare for it. We can physically prepare, mentally rehearse our response, hone our skills, and work in a team with others. This is applicable to battle scenarios, emergency situations, or even on the sports field. That preparation is key to suppressing the fear response.

When Air Force Academy graduate, former fighter pilot, and USAir Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed USAir Flight 1549 in the Hudson, he said in an interview with 60 Minutes that moments before the crash were “the worst sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the-floor feeling” that he had ever experienced. However, he and his crew had practiced emergency landings with such diligence, that they were able to put that fear aside and skillfully control the emergency landing. His team saved the lives of everyone on board the flight because they didn’t succumb to fear. Instead, they controlled their fear.

To paraphrasing a chief master sergeant that I served with during my Air Force career, “Few rise to the occasion in combat. Rather, they sink to the level of their training.” The way the military values training, especially the repetition of so-called “perishable skills”, is an indicator of the value of preparation. Soldiers expect to face danger, and prepare themselves against fleeing from it. The procedures are rehearsed over and over again until it becomes second nature.
I think courage comes from a well within our Human Spirit. It stems from more than mere biology, since we are more than mere flesh and bone. If humans were only biological machines, would there be an ability to create beauty, love, or be able to discern truth from lies? Biology certainly plays a role in who we are – after all, we are not disembodied spirits – but it cannot offer the entire answer. Courage, like other Universal Human Goods, comes from both our biology and our human spirit.

A sense of duty and fraternal love contributes to courage, as does the nearly universal human social need to be accepted among a social group. Soldiers who exhibit courage in combat situations most often report that they were “just doing their jobs” and “didn’t want to let their teammates down.” We call that “duty” and “loyalty”, these qualities are among the most prized of human virtues.

People are willing to endure considerable hardship when they know that others are depending upon them. When that social pressure includes life and death situations, the sense of duty becomes even stronger. Oftentimes, our sense of duty –will override the fear instinct. That is where true courage originates. Ultimately, courage is an act of love. It’s the love of others above self that will motivate people to endure hardship and brave danger in order to protect others. Without love, there can be no courage.

The Olympic gymnast is another example, though slightly different. The fear of injury and even death is real, but not from other teams. The gymnast must first conquer himself. In a real way, gymnasts must first conquer gravity before they can even approach the “inner voice”. Like any sport, being an Olympic level gymnast requires constant dedication and sacrifice. It requires subordination of fear, heights, and pushing pain completely out of the mind to focus on the task at hand. In addition, teammates are depending on a high score. Years of 4 a.m. practices, foregoing social interactions and activities, arriving at the single moment where the difference between a gold medal and no medal is a fraction of a point. If the gymnast makes a mistake in the Olympics, he’s not only risking injury, he’s letting his country down.

Lastly, consider the courage of the cancer or rehabilitation patient. Both must rise daily with the knowledge they will face pain that day. For the cancer patient, that struggle is an actual fight for their life. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are very hard to endure. There are days of nausea and pain each time. Choosing to fight their disease rather than succumb to it takes a daily dose of special courage. Similarly, the amputee or accident victim who goes to physical therapy knowing they face hours of pain just to hope they reacquire skills they once took for granted takes courage. Wounded Warriors in rehab face weeks or even months of painful therapy to learn to walk again, or feed themselves, or hug their lived ones. People who have suffered physical or psychological trauma must daily choose not to let their injuries define them, The alternative is to cease to live. That is courageous as well.

Overcoming pressure, the fear of mistakes, and the very real fear of severe injury requires physical courage. To be an Olympian is to find the courage to succeed even when success is elusive, to manage fear for years in a single-minded purpose to stand on the winner’s podium.


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and blogs.

#TBT: No Real Leader “Phones It In”

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books, Leadership by Experience, Throwback Thursday

Paperback Cover - FrontMy book, Leading Leaders, is filled with stories about leaders and personal stories from my own life since leadership is inherently a personal experience. Leadership is not the application of skills as much as it’s the focused attention on human interaction. Humans are complex beings that are the amalgamation of their own experiences, learned and innate behaviors, and the situations leaders and teams find themselves in over the course of the job at hand. We can learn a lot from our own experiences, and others’, so long as we’re open to the lesson. That’s the real secret of effective leaders: they care enough about the team and the job at hand to invest themselves in the effort.  Leaders have to be present and engaged.  No effective leader ever “phones it in.”

A great story to illustrate my point: I once accompanied an Army 2-star general to the signing ceremony of an agreement on enhancing military spouse employment between four military bases in the Rocky Mountain Front Range.  It was a typical ceremonial military function, with local officials, base officials from two military Services, and a host of military spouses.  As the Army major general made his way through the crowded corridor, staff in tow, toward the ball room to get ready to start the event, he found himself shaking hands with a volunteer who was also the wife of one of his deployed soldiers.   The general could have shaken her hand, smiled perfunctorily, and moved on.  No one would have blamed him, since he commanded thousands of soldiers and certainly had a full schedule.

But that’s not what he did.

He stopped and gave that young woman his full attention.  He asked her how she was doing with specific questions, and after listening to her intently, assured her of his support by making certain his aide had her name and her husband’s unit.  I have no doubt that he checked on her and her husband later, probably personally.  It made a huge impression on me to see such focus and presence by a senior leader!

That’s presence…that’s leadership…and it’s applicable to leadership in any situation.

#TBT “Local Kine” Leadership

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books

Aloha: the word conjures up warm tropical breezes and spectacular sunsets. But just as Hawaii is more than sand and surf, so is the meaning of aloha. It’s far more than you think!

The natural beauty of the ‘aina (the land) and ke kai (the sea) in the Hawaiian Islands is legendary, but it’s the e komo mai (welcome) the good kama’aina (islanders) show to malahini (newcomers like me), that make these Islands of Aloha a wonderful place to live.  In fact, if you’ve noticed a slow down in the number of posts since I arrived last July, just take a look at the photo below and ask yourself, “Would I be at the computer or would I be outside?”  All kidding aside and the beauty of the Islands notwithstanding, the Spirit of Aloha is the primary reason we love Hawaii.  It’s been my experience that good relationships can make any place a great place to live.  In other words, leadership is like life: it’s all about the people.

Makapu'u Lookout, O'ahu
Makapu’u Lookout, O’ahu

One of our local authors, Rosa Say, has written a book and maintains a site dedicated to the Hawaiian approach to leading people called Managing With Aloha.  It’s a Hawaiian spin on the classic leadership approach of meeting people where they are and respecting them as part of the team.  Rosa Say does a great job of explaining the Hawaiian approach to life and then translating that into business principles anyone can use.  In her 19 Values of Aloha, she uses the traditional Hawaiian values and words from the Hawaiian language to express how a workplace can operate with Aloha.

Managing With Aloha 0001L4-791x1024 I think the values Ms Say describes connect nicely with my own Leading Leaders philosophy of Integrity, Respect, Teamwork, Leaders Lead, and Little Things Matter.  These values resonate, and also connect across cultural lines, because fundamentally leadership is about relationships, and helping others find value in their work and each other.  I like her blog, and I’m looking forward to reading Rosa Say’s book.

In my own book, I touch on similar ideas. Even though I’ve developed my leadership principles primarily in military and sports environments, Leading Leaders principles are universal and can be applied to industry, non-profit, and government. Why? Because good leadership is fundamentally about human interaction, inspiring people to get a job done or overcome obstacles: from combat to craft fairs. Leadership is not a formula or process. There is no product to buy, shirt to wear, or pill to take that can substitute for good leadership, and good leadership requires strength of character from the leader.  This is something I have in common with Ms Say: the belief in the power of ohana and relationships to move people toward goals.

A big mahalo (thank you) to Rosa Say for her contribution to helping leaders live pono, spread aloha and ohana, and add to the conversation about alaka’i in the business community!


Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverMickey believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 28 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams and The 5 Be’s For Starting Out. He’s a frequent contributor to industry publications and blogs.

Ngo Dinh Diem

Leadership Lessons from The Lost Mandate of Heaven

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Books, Quotes by Famous Leaders
Ngo Dinh Diem
Ngo Dinh Diem (Photo: “Biografías y Vidas”)

Last week, I reviewed The Lost Mandate of Heaven by Geoffrey D. T. Shaw (Ignatius Press), While Lost Mandate is not a leadership book, senior leaders can mine a number leadership lessons from it.

The Most Senior Leader Must Remain Engaged

Kennedy was involved in most of the decisions leading up to the coup, but the author never presents any evidence that he was involved in making an affirmative “go/no-go” decision. It appears he simply allowed his advisors and senior Cabinet officials to make national decisions without his direct input. C-suite leaders must walk a fine line between micro-managing and being too passive. As I detail in Leading Leaders, senior executives have to understand where to be personally involved and what to delegate. This skill more than any other is essential for leaders at all levels but vital for senior leaders. Executives can strangle an organization by over-controlling, but they can also find themselves dangerously off-course by “checking out” and allowing others to make decisions only the CEO should make. Kennedy was directly involved in how US military forces supported the Bay of Pigs invasion, but appears to have left the decision to remove and ultimately have Diem murdered in the hands of a committee.

Facts, Facts, Facts–Even When They Clash With Your Worldview

Senior leaders can become so enamored with their own ideas and ideology that they refuse to accept facts when they see them. This results in senior leaders making decisions on emotion and guesswork rather than on facts. The CIA and DoD, as well as dissenting elements of State and even VP Johnson all told Kennedy that Diem was the right man to lead South Vietnam. Instead, false and misleading reports as well as outright fabricated stories in the press seem to have contributed to the decision to remove Diem. Senior leaders must insulate themselves against emotional decisions by constantly seeking out data to drive decisions. Additionally, those same leaders must be willing to be convinced when the weight of the facts contradicts their preconceived notions. The coup was enabled because facts from people who actually had first hand knowledge of Diem and South Vietnam were ignored in favor of “experts” in Washington and New York.  Senior leaders and executives must continually ask “why?” and reward those who are courageous enough to speak their minds. Failure to do so will result in reports of everything being “great” right up to the point of bankruptcy or worse.

Culture and History Are Crucial

As I’ve written before, being culturally literate is a central precept to doing business in the 21st century. The world is very “small” due to high speed travel and communication, so a failure to understand the context of decisions usually leads to poor decisions. Furthermore, making uninformed decisions not only frustrates our aims, it usually leads to unintended consequences. The uninformed “experts” in Washington believed they could replace a scholar with a military general without understanding the cultural significance of that act. The Vietnamese people, and even Ho Chi Minh himself, believed Diem and honorable man and a patriot–he had the Confucian Mandate of Heaven to lead. Upending the social order and removing the man with the Mandate invited disunity and social chaos the Communists exploited to their benefit. The aim of removing Diem was to speed the victory over the Communists, but it probably enabled the Communists’ victory 10 year later. With Diem gone and the military in charge, the war ceased to be a national fight for the heart of the Vietnamese people and instead became a proxy war between the Americans and Soviets to the benefit of the Vietnamese Communists. Executives have to rely on their staffs of experts, but they have to understand the context of every decision. That sort of expertise only comes with experience and study. The best international organizations spend considerable energy to understand their environment and make decisions in the context of the cultures and people involved. No matter how good the intel, the best decisions are made collaboratively with those involved and affected.

Unity Does Not Mean Uniformity

Diem understood he governed in a multi-religious environment (Confucians, Buddhists, and Catholics) and went to pains to ensure he showed no favoritism. It’s ironic, then, that the event probably orchestrated by his enemies in Hanoi and Saigon and that gave his enemies in Washington fodder to oust him was over religious freedom. A quick survey of the facts by Shaw proves Diem was no despot, but that was the label unjustly applied to him as a pretext for his removal. Diem did not require uniformity in belief, only unity of action. In modern parlance, we use the word diversity as shorthand for this idea, but the concept is more than a buzzword or recruiting principle. Unity of effort toward the organizational goals is far more important than uniformity of belief or action. Diem chose people who shared his vision of a democratic and free Vietnam regardless of their religion. Senior leaders would do well to select team members who share their goals and work well with their teammates, rather than looking for a particular pedigree or background. In this way, senior leaders can assure themselves they get the best possible advice and enable the best possible decisions.

Summary

Just as in the Kennedy Administration of 1962, leaders can allow their personal biases and lack of first hand knowledge to become a barrier to sound decisions. C-suite leaders and senior leaders at all levels have to guard against allowing that to happen, lest they end up creating a worse situation than the one they’re trying solve. When Kennedy gave the green light to the plotters in Washington and Saigon, he couldn’t have forecasted the cascade of disasters that would follow. While most leaders in business will never have the fate of nations in their hands, their business and their employees are counting on sound decisions. A committment to sober decisions based on facts should always be the senior leader’s priority when they come to work each day. Secondary effects require a clairvoyance few possess.

Book Review: Lost Mandate of Heaven

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Leaders are also readers, and when I travel I use the time to catch up on my reading and writing. Ignatius Press recently sent me The Lost Mandate of Heaven by Geoffery D. T. Shaw to review, and it was time well spent!

Shaw tells the story of the rise and betrayal of President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. The book is extremely well researched, footnoted, and written–worthwhile for students of history, politics, or leadership.

Ngo Dinh Diem, the man who would become the President of South Vietnam, was actually born in what was once the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South to a politically connected Catholic family. His father’s political connections to the French colonial authorities and his Catholic faith meant he was well-educated in Western thought, and his membership in one of Vietnam’s “great families” meant he was immersed in Confucian thought. Diem even considered the priesthood briefly, but in the end his duty to his country ruled his heart. In short, in both education and temperament, no one was better prepared than Diem to guide Vietnam during the transition from colonial and post-war society into the modern family of nations. Unfortunately, due in no small part to meddling from Washington by people who had no first hand knowledge of Vietnam or Diem, this was not to be.

Post-World War II Vietnam suffered from the same political and societal chaos as the rest of the world. Communists and opportunists used the vacuum created by retreating and defeated empires to attempt to install regimes friendly to their own agendas. At the conclusion of the Pacific War in 1945, just as in Korea, Japanese forces surrendered to separate Allied nations in different parts of the country. In the South, the British forces accepted the Japanese surrender while in the North, it was the Chinese. When the French installed Emperor Bao Dai, the Communist Viet Minh (later: Viet Cong) led by Ho Chi Minh began the First Indochina war to overthrow the French-supported post-colonial regime and install a Communist government. With considerable support of the Soviet Union and Chairman Mao’s People’s Republic, the Viet Minh defeated the French-Vietnamese National Army at Dien Bien Phu. It was then the Great Powers partitioned Vietnam with a promise of UN-supervised elections that never came. Ngo Dinh Diem had risen through the ranks of colonial government, became president of South Vietnam in 1955. Due to his social status and his occupation as a scholar, many Vietnamese saw Diem as the leader with the Confucian “Mandate of Heaven” to rule. After reflection, it seems to me the crux of the conflict between North and South Vietnam was not so much between Communism and Capitalism, or between Buddhism, Christianity, and Confucianism. Rather, it was a battle in the hearts and minds of the people of Vietnam about who had the Mandate of Heaven: Ngo Dinh Diem or Ho Chi Minh.

Many elites on the Left in the USA saw Diem very differently than the people of Vietnam. It was telling to me that the men who actually went to Vietnam and spoke with Diem respected and supported him, while policy wonks inside the Beltway who had done neither plotted his removal. Vice President Johnson argued forcefully against Diem’s removal, as did Ambassador Colby, Chief of Mission in Saigon. Both men had met with Diem personally, and both had been to Vietnam themselves. The Viet Cong did a masterful job of playing up the slightest mistakes and even twisting events to appear to be what they were not. An American press anxious for stories that sell magazines, sometimes printed poorly researched stories then stuck with their line when the facts on the ground didn’t match. Finally, while the author doesn’t explicitly say it in the book, reading the quotes from senior leaders and policymakers at the time makes it clear there was considerable willingness to believe the worst of Diem, and few who were willing to allow facts to rule their judgement when those facts contradicted their preconceived notions.

Ultimately, the Kennedy Administration encouraged, either passively or actively, the removal and killing of of Diem in Saigon. In Confucian society, the scholar is at the top of the social respect pyramid, and the soldier is near the bottom. In encouraging the coup, Kennedy Administration demonstrated not only an appalling lack of understanding of the facts on the ground, but a complete disregard for the culture we were meddling in. By replacing a scholar-monk like Diem with a junta made up of soldiers, we effectively upended and “un-ordered” society at precisely the moment when order and national unity was a prerequisite for winning the war against the North and stabilizing the country. The results were predictable: chaos and a lack of national will to fight the Viet Cong and the North.

Summary

The ouster of Diem was not America’s finest hour, and was a result of ideology in Washington trumping solid leadership and sober decision-making. The Lost Mandate of Heaven is well-written and thoroughly researched. Shaw does an excellent job of laying out the facts, and I particularly appreciated the heavy use of primary sources. Quotes from the major decision makers’ own personal writings, official records, and direct-cited official communications all lay out a clear and unemotional case of at best malfeasance by the Kennedy Administration, and at worse criminal behavior for planning the unlawful coup of an ally. It’s a book worthy of any reading list on history, organizational dynamics, or leadership. I recommend this book highly.

Like Mickey’s Rules for Leaders? Buy the Ebook!

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I received so much positive feedback from my “Mickey’s Rules” series, I’ve assembled the entire list into an ebook!

Mickey's Rules for Leaders eBook CoverDeveloped over career spanning three decades, in this book I give leaders a “how to” rule book for leading at any level. The eleven rules in the book are excellent guidelines for relating to other people, correctly prioritizing work, and leading teams to high performance. Learn the secrets of leadership from a leader who’s lived it! With Rules like “Don’t Spook the Herd” and “The First Report is Usually Wrong”, this is not your average handbook!

It’s short and accessible for leaders at any level–with some practical examples and a little humor thrown in for good measure.

Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

Be Free – Part II

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Moby_1In Part I, I put forth the idea that “freedom” is not simply doing whatever we want, but doing what’s good and in a way that builds ourselves and others up. To illustrate, we will look at traffic controls which are tools such as traffic signals, signage, speed limits, and pavement markings. Traffic controls restrict the flow of vehicular traffic on roads and highways to comply with specific safety rules and guidelines. A superficial look at traffic controls would imply that traffic controls restrict a driver’s freedom, but the opposite is actually the case.  Imagine how dangerous roads would be without speed limits, signage or lane markings.

What fascinates me about addiction and obsessive behavior is that people would choose an altered state of consciousness that’s toxic and ostensibly destroys most aspects of your normal life, because for a brief moment you feel okay.

– Moby, musician-songwriter

The opposite of freedom is not “just” confinement or restriction. As we will discuss in the next section, Aristotle’s philosophy of the Golden Mean, is that virtue lies in the middle between the extremes of vice.However, with appropriate traffic controls, we have the freedom to safely travel wherever we like. We can feel safe travelling at high speeds on the highway since we know that our fellow motorists will also be following the guidelines ensuring safe travel for all. Appropriate behavioral controls permit us to remain free, and in this case unharmed.

Therefore, on one end of the “freedom continuum” lies slavery, and on the other lies license. Just as slavery is the abuse of freedom to hold another unjustly bound, license likewise is an abuse of freedom since it binds our own will to our appetites or passions. The newspaper is brimming with stories of people who abused their own freedom either through the self-abuse or by allowing others to abuse them. “Excessive freedom” is as much a problem as a complete lack of freedom, and in fact ends up in the same place: slavery. On the ends of the “freedom continuum” is slavery to others and slavery to appetites – both are self-destructive.

As a military officer, I often remind my Airmen that the Air Force doesn’t set standards of behavior to hinder their freedom (i.e., regulations). Rather, we set standards of behavior to keep them safe and healthy, ready to accomplish our mission – to have the defense of our countrymen in our hands is a serious responsibility.

When Airmen violate these standards, leaders must do their duty and hold them accountable – this is justice. Furthermore, being held accountable is actually good for morale. The consequences for violating military standards range from minor to severe, depending on the seriousness of the offense, and always entails some sort of penalty such as a fine, extra duty, or demotion of rank. When others see an offender receive their just deserts for violating the rules or the law, it reinforces their confidence in their leaders and each other.

To summarize, true freedom does not come at someone else’s expense and true freedom doesn’t result from selfishness or self-centeredness. True freedom comes from serving others and respecting both our own and others’ dignity. True freedom enables us to grow as human persons.

Be Free – Part I

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9215883633_0b13a03051_o“Freedom” is a word often misused in our current vocabulary. We view our “freedoms” in such a broad manner that the word sometimes loses its meaning. Particularly in the case of young people, “freedom” is synonymous with “doing whatever I like”, but that’s not authentic freedom. Authentic freedom is being able to choose what’s good for you, and yet remaining unencumbered by things that prevent you from being healthy. In fact, unbounded freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want is not freedom; it is license.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

– Nelson Mandela

It’s really not a radical concept, the idea that freedom is bound by responsibilities and limits; in fact it’s preserved in our system of laws and our notion of justice. We regulate speech and assembly both for the common good and for the individual’s good. People are not permitted to gather for the purpose of fomenting violence, and we don’t allow a person to run into a theater and shout “fire” without just cause. Ideally, our laws are constructed to both protect the common good, and safeguard individual liberty. However, the freedom we enjoy as Americans is not unfettered liberty. We are free but we do not have license to do whatever we want.

Authentic freedom is an individual’s ability to choose what is good without being impeded or bound, be it an internal or external restriction. If an individual’s appetites or another person’s demands prevent the individual from making good choices, then we can objectively say that the individual is not free.

Get Your Copy of The 5 Be’s Today!

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I’m excited to announce my latest title now available in pocketbook from Lead The Way Media!

Logo Cover - FrontIn a world full of “no” and “don’t”, The 5 Be’s For Starting Out is a positive vision of who to “Be.” Based on a lifetime of mentoring young adults, The 5 Be’s is a roadmap to living a healthy, fulfilling, and successful life!

  • Be Proud Of Who You Are: Everyone has something to contribute — and so do you!
  • Be Free: Authentic freedom means having the ability to choose what’s good for you!
  • Be Virtuous: The virtues are the “guardrails” for success in life!
  • Be Balanced:  Keep your Mind, Body, and Spirit nourished to  keep your balance!
  • Be Courageous: Courage comes in many forms: physical and moral courage — find yours!

The 5 Be’s For Starting Out was a huge hit at a recent industry conference, and I’m proud to offer it as a pocketbook. It will also be available as an ebook soon! The 5 Be’s  makes a great stocking stuffer for the young adult in your life–or anyone looking to make a fresh start.

Click the button below to get your copy now!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

The 5 Be’s Excerpt: Esprit De Corps

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I’m proud to present an excerpt from my latest book, The 5 Be’s (For Starting Out). It will be available on Lulu.com in print and e-book formats on Halloween, and on Amazon as an e-book shortly thereafter!


Before we begin the discussion on helping people find their own strengths, it is important to address the external aspects of “pride.” In the military, as illustrated in my “Airman” speech to the First Term Airman’s Center (FTAC) Airmen, it is virtuous for individuals to subordinate their own needs to that of the group. The Air Force Core Value of “Service Before Self” embodies this idea. For mentors, coaches, and leaders in every type of organization, esprit de corps builds team cohesion and imparts a sense of belonging to the group. Esprit de corps, literally “spirit of the body”, is the collective pride in the larger group. It is a necessary and desirable starting point used to assemble a group of people into a team to accomplish a shared goal.

Helping our new Airmen find some pride in their organization was the reason I began my speech to the FTAC Airmen the way I did. Reminding them about the might of the Service they volunteered to join. In order for the young Airmen to take their service seriously, they needed to take their Service seriously. Esprit de corps helps a person take pride in their group membership, enabling them to overcome the natural and human tendency of placing individual interests before the groups’.

Furthermore, the subordination of an individual’s needs will assist that group member’s personal growth. The principle is the same in many walks of life, such as athletics, religion, business or art. Any time we learn to delay gratification for the good of others, we gain the opportunity to learn something new about ourselves, and as a side effect, advanced the shared goals of the group.

Preparation + Opportunity = Victory

This is pride experienced from group participation in the best case. Like all things, divergence to either extreme can create vice. In the extreme, if individuals twist pride into fanaticism. If pride in one’s group results in the subordination of all good outside of the group then people become fanatics.

Fanatics are capable of great harm, either through violence or just plain ugliness. It is the same vice that generates bullying in high school and at its most extreme, war crimes like ethnic cleansing. On the other end of the scale, the wrong sort of pride in the group creates a user of people, where they spend their lives in subordination to the group to the exclusion of all other good. This is the kind of pride that generates the stereotypical “salaryman” who neglects his family for work.
Therefore, mentors and leaders should appreciate the power of external motivation and esprit de corps, and use that power only for good… the good of the team and the good of the individual.

Esprit de corps should inspire us to achieve, to become virtuous, and to become better people.


Look for The 5 Be’s (For Starting Out) on Halloween in the Lulu Store!

Help Me Choose a Cover Design for The 5 Be’s!

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Would You Like to Be a Part of My Next Book?

I’m very excited to tell you that my next book, The 5 Be’s (For Starting Out) is nearing completion! As I go through final editing and get ready to publish, it’s time to choose a cover design. The three designs I’m considering are below!

The 5 Be’s (For Starting Out) is a positive vision of who we can be if we’re healthy and free. In a world of “don’ts”, The 5 Be’s is a guide for a person who wants to achieve without losing their soul.

Would you please vote for your favorite cover design in the combox below?  All comments welcome!!


Logo Cover
“Logo” design
Landscape Photo
“Landscape” design
Author Photo
“Author” design

Excerpt: “The Five Be’s” – My Newest Book Coming in October ’15!

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Five Be's - Facebook banner-001I’m happy to offer you an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Five Be’s, now going through post-production editing enroute to an October publishing date!

“We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

Really, it was not just the Air Force Military Training Instructors who’d told them “don’t”; they’d been hearing that word a great deal throughout their lives.           I stood in front of a group of young Airmen at the First Term Airmen’s Center (FTAC) as they sleepily waited to hear what the old colonel had to say to them. With few exceptions, they were about 19 years old and living away from home for the first time in their lives. They had all volunteered to serve their country in a time of war, most of them in Kindergarten or Elementary School during the 9/11 attacks. Before they appeared in new Air Force blue uniforms in that FTAC classroom, they had been through 12 weeks of Basic Military Trainingfor indoctrination into the Air Force, and Air Force Technical Training to learn the skills each would employ in their Air Force Specialty. For their first six months in the Air Force, they had heard their leaders give them a lot of “don’ts.”

As we raise young people into adulthood, we spend a lot of time setting boundaries.  In fact, most of what young people hear as they grow is a list of “don’t’s.”  When we’re very young, we hear “don’t throw food on the floor”, “don’t speak disrespectfully to your elders”, “don’t take toys away from your friends.”  As we grow, the “don’ts” begin to pile up: don’t play in the street, don’t forget your manners, don’t use bad language, etc. Even in adulthood, we are inundated with “don’ts” regarding our behavior: don’t say those words, don’t wear those clothes,don’t eat this, don’t touch that.

All these “don’ts” form the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and within reason, boundaries are a necessary part of establishing appropriate behavior. Manners, after all, are intended to make everyone comfortable so each person’s dignity and feelings are safeguarded. All human groupings develop norms for behavior each group member is expected to adhere to. They vary in complexity and formality, but norms…boundaries or “don’ts”…are common. Of course, we can overdo boundary setting, and when there are too many boundaries, we call that tyranny.  In general, however, boundaries and standards of behavior (“manners”) are necessary to the function of any human society.

What we generally left unsaid when establishing our group norms is a target to aim at.  It’s not sufficient to merely describe the outside bounds of the target, you also have to show people what the bulls eye looks like.  That’s what this book is all about.

People can function in a world of “do’s and don’ts,” but knowing what to do and what not to do really only describes external behavior. What people, particularly young people, really need is a vision of who we want them to be.  With that vision, people are then empowered to reach for something rather thanavoiding something.

To illustrate that point, imagine the following:

You’re in a pitch black room with the task of finding a door somewhere in the room. What would you do? Most people would find the walls first, feeling their way slowly around the walls until they find the door, then opening the door to exit. But what if the door were a trap door in the floor? Or a staircase in the center of the room? What if there’s no walls or the walls give way when you push on them? Simply being told there’s a door in the room isn’t enough information to find the door. You have even less chance if the walls are missing or not firm enough to help guide you. Giving a person a vision of who we want them to be is like turning on an exit light in the room. The light illuminates the exit and gives you a direction to walk. It could even be bright enough to illuminate the entire room.

What this little thought experiment illustrates is the need for both boundaries and a target: standards of behavior and a positive vision of who we want to be.

That’s what I wanted to give those bright young Airmen at FTAC: a positive vision of who I want them to be. A vision of a person who is healthy and integrated, balanced and free. the kind of person who can be as proud of themselves and who they are as we are of them. I wanted to give them a vision to aim at, so they could grow into the kind of people others would follow.

And now I offer that same vision of who I wanted them to be to you. It’s the kind of person I want to be as well.

______________________________________

Follow my author page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @mickeyaddison

Watch for my newest title, The Five Be’s, in October 2015!!

My book, Leading Leaders, is available at the Lulu StoreAmazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble.

Check Out My Newest Blog: Patio Wisdom

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Check out PatioWisdom.com! I’d originally intended the blog “Patio Wisdom” to be a static page as an intro to the book by the same title. Patio Wisdom is a fun book I believe will inspire young men, and can be an inspiration to any one who’s a student of the School of Hard Knocks. Life isn’t always fair, but it can be fun!

I had fun doing the project with my brother. I hope you’ll enjoy the blog!