Leaders Lead with Shared Purpose

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Why don’t my employees respond to my leadership? Why don’t their values align with the organization’s values? How do I get my organization to perform at the level I know they’re capable?

            Those are questions asked often by leaders in every industry and field. Everyone has walked into an office or production floor where morale was low and productivity was lower. Places where pretty, motivational posters on the wall are a source of quiet ridicule rather than inspiration. Places where everyone wears the company logo, but no one embodies the company values. In organizations like that, the most dangerous place is being between the employees and the door at the end of the day.

            Powerless managers blame the employees, the generational differences, the economy, or a host of popular excuses, when the real problem is likely the leader himself. The truth is that external visuals and artifacts inspire people only when leaders inspire people. Only leaders who understand the relationship between them and their team, and then step up and lead, will ever be able to produce high performance in their organizations.

Leadership is the Foundation of Performance

            There’s an old adage that to build something that lasts, you must start with a solid foundation. I believe the foundation of any excellent organization is an excellent leader or leadership team. Leaders rarely lead teams where they’re the only leaders on the team. A football team has an offensive and defensive captain. Military units and large organizations are often organized into hierarchies with leaders at each level. Even small teams have leaders for various parts of the job: this one is in charge of assembly, or that one is in charge of transportation, and so on. I have been lucky to be given leadership opportunities at an early age. Even from those earliest leadership opportunities, I was leading others who had leadership roles of their own beside me and subordinate to me. In Scouts, there was a hierarchy and defined roles among the boys in my patrol. On sports teams and in business there were other team captains and assistant managers. In the military, there have been peer leaders and as I got promoted, subordinate commanders. Leading those people is what leadership is about.

            Even though I’ve developed my leadership principles primarily in military and sports environments, I can assure you that 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.


Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He 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 of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of eight books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating TeamsMickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straightforward Guide to Life.

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#TBT Mickey’s Rule #8: Be Curious; Ask ‘Why?’ A Lot.

Posted Posted in Mickeys Rules

SarrisSuccessful leaders are curious about their business and the people who work for/with them.  This sort of curiosity is an imperative for a leader because he/she has to both accomplish the task at hand and the “care/feeding” of the team.  To put it more succinctly, the leader needs to know what’s going on.

There’s a scene in the movie Galaxy Quest where alien general Sarris (Robin Tobin) is interrogating the human starship captain/actor Commander Peter Taggart/Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) that is illustrative of this principle.  Sarris asks Commander Taggart/Nesmith repeatedly about the workings of a particular artifact on board the ship, and is incredulous when “the commander” says he doesn’t know.  “A captain knows every weld, every rivet in his ship,” says Sarris.

None of us is very likely to be matching wits with an alien general, but the point for us is that the “commander” needs to understand how the organization works down to the “rivets and bolts.”  This means understanding who does what to whom, the stakeholders, customers, and teammates who produce whatever it is the organization produces.

The leader does this for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s not possible to diagnose problems if the leader doesn’t  know how the process works.  Without that sort of detailed knowledge, it might not even be possible to know if there’s even a problem!  There’s certainly not much hope for making process improvements. Second, it’s much harder to look after the people if the leader didn’t understand the details of the organization and process.  A curious leader who knows their people will know when there’s something amiss with an employee.  They’ll notice when production drops off before it becomes a crisis.

There are some barriers to a curious leader, however.

The first barrier is the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality.  This mentality positively breeds a lack curiosity.  Everyone is comfortable, no one attempts to improve things, no one notices inefficiency or wasted effort.  “This is how we’ve sideways done it” is a recipe for organizational extinction.

The second barrier pertains mostly to senior executives and occurs when the staff and direct reports protect the executive from bad news.  If the executive isn’t sufficiently curious to seek out bad news, or to go and see the operation for themselves, he/she can be blindsided with catastrophic news.  As the saying goes, ”bad news doesn’t get better with age.”

Perhaps the best reason for a leader to be curious is the effect it has on the team. If the leader is curious and engaged, asking “why ” a lot, that behavior will become party of the  organizational culture. It will generate engaged employees, it will foster a culture of continuous improvement, and it will create an environment that improves everyone’s job satisfaction.  “Curiosity” is one of the best ways to ensure  organizational success.

Rule #8: ”Be Curious; Ask ‘Why?’ A Lot. Keep Asking Until You Understand”

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Mickeys Rules

Successful leaders are curious about their business and the people who work for/with them.  This sort of curiosity is an imperative for a leader because he/she has to both accomplish the task at hand and the “care/feeding” of the team.  To put it more succinctly, the leader needs to know what’s going on.
image

There’s a scene in the movie Galaxy Quest where alien general Sarris (Robin Tobin) is interrogating the human starship captain/actor Commander Peter Taggart/Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) that is illustrative of this principle.  Sarris asks Commander Taggart/Nesmith repeatedly about the workings of a particular artifact on board the ship, and is incredulous when “the commander” says he doesn’t know.  “A captain knows every weld, every rivet in his ship,” says Sarris.

None of us is very likely to be matching wits with an alien general, but the point for us is that the “commander” needs to understand how the organization works down to the “rivets and bolts.”  This means understanding who does what to whom, the stakeholders, customers, and teammates who produce whatever it is the organization produces.

The leader does this for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s not possible to diagnose problems if the leader doesn’t  know how the process works.  Without that sort of detailed knowledge, it might not even be possible to know if there’s even a problem!  There’s certainly not much hope for making process improvements. Second, it’s much harder to look after the people if the leader didn’t understand the details of the organization and process.  A curious leader who knows their people will know when there’s something amiss with an employee.  They’ll notice when production drops off before it becomes a crisis.

There are some barriers to a curious leader, however.

The first barrier is the “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality.  This mentality positively breeds a lack curiosity.  Everyone is comfortable, no one attempts to improve things, no one notices inefficiency or wasted effort.  “This is how we’ve sideways done it” is a recipe for organizational extinction.

The second barrier pertains mostly to senior executives and occurs when the staff and direct reports protect the executive from bad news.  If the executive isn’t sufficiently curious to seek out bad news, or to go and see the operation for themselves, he/she can be blindsided with catastrophic news.  As the saying goes, ”bad news doesn’t get better with age.”

Perhaps the best reason for a leader to be curious is the effect it has on the team. If the leader is curious and engaged, asking “why ” a lot, that behavior will become party of the  organizational culture. It will generate engaged employees, it will foster a culture of continuous improvement, and it will create an environment that improves everyone’s job satisfaction.  “Curiosity” is one of the best ways to ensure  organizational success.