Dynamic Dozen: Setting The Example

Posted Posted in GeneralLeadership.com
Maxwell AFB, Ala. - Officer Training School inducts Gen (ret) Lance Smith, former commander, US Joint Forces Command and NATO Supreme Allied commander for Transformation, and Brigadier General Paul Johnson, deputy US Military Representative NATO Headquarters into the OTS Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame at Maxwell AFB on Feb. 17, 2012. (US Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox)
(US Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox)

Always do everything you ask of those you command.
– General George S. Patton

When I was an instructor at the Air Force’s Officer Training School, I noticed the uncanny way the groups of officer trainees we led became mirrors of their Flight Commander. It was a little scary, really. If the Flight Commander was cerebral, quiet, competitive, gung-ho, or whatever: so were his or her trainees. During our Instructor Qualification Course the seasoned Flight Commanders warned us this would happen, but to see it in action was startling to me as a brand new instructor. It also impressed upon me the weight of my responsibility to set the example.

Military Leaders Know Setting the Example is Key

Setting the example is crucial to motivating others to follow, because people pay far more attention to what leaders do than what we say. Like it or not, people will emulate their leader if they respect them. A key to earning and maintaining the team’s respect is setting a good example.

It’s a truism of military leadership that we must never ask our teams to do anything we’re not willing to do themselves. We drill this idea into young military leaders from the very beginning. We expect young lieutenants and sergeants to set the example for the troops they lead in what they say and how they act. A lieutenant cannot expect his troops to follow the rules if he doesn’t, and he cannot expect loyalty if he doesn’t demonstrate loyalty both up and down the chain of command. That’s the essence of setting an example: to model exactly what we expect of those we lead. A model is much more compelling than any speech or motivational poster.

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.

-Albert Einstein

Setting the example works both ways, of course. If you are late or sloppy or disloyal, your team will soon follow suit. Leaders who fail to recognize their own responsibility to follow their own rules and set a good example become responsible for their own failure. I’ve seen many high performing team descend into mediocrity when a poor leader replaces a good one. People naturally rise to the expectations of the leader, and the example leaders set for the team are their expectations of them.

It’s Really Not Hard

Setting a good example is really not very hard, we just have to possess the discipline to do what we say. Be on time, follow your own dress code, follow the company travel rules, etc. These are simple ways to make sure your team understands what’s expected of them. Believe me, your people are watching your actions–they notice the good behavior. Besides just setting expectations, there’s also the added benefit of being able to enforce the rules with a clear conscience. People will accept correction from a leader they know is only asking them to do what the leader does him- or herself.

Setting a good example is the keystone to leadership. Set a good one and see your team soar!

Originally posted on GeneralLeadership.com


cropped-20141026_102425.jpgMickey 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 six 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 writes for his own Leading Leaders blog, and GeneralLeadership.com.

5 Military Leaders Tips to Make Your Morning Productive

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USAF Photo
USAF Photo

I’ve been in the military my entire adult life so whether I wanted to be or not: I’m an early riser.  Over time I came to appreciate the value of using that morning time to make my day productive.  In their 1980’s Army recruiting commercials the Army boasted “we do more before 9 am than most people do all day.”  Of course when you get up early enough, there’s time!

These are tips every military leader from sergeant to general learns for setting themselves and their organizations up for a productive day. There’s a reason why productive military leaders have a morning routine: it works! You don’t have to be in the military to learn from the wisdom of sergeants.  Read on:

1. “If you ain’t early, you’re late.”  

Give yourself plenty of time between wake up and departure for work.  The snooze button is powerful, but that extra 30 or 40 minutes of snoozing doesn’t really help you.  In fact, your snooze button is evil.  In those two hours you’ll have time to do the things on the rest of the list.  And let’s face it, rolling out of bed and racing to the door will mean you’re more likely to forget something than if y0u just got out of bed to begin with.

2. Do Some “PT”

“PT” in military jargon is “Physical Training,” or what the rest of us call “working out.”  I’ve had a few jobs in the military where I could organize my schedule so I could PT in the afternoon, but those are rare. Like most people if I don’t spend some time in the morning working out there’s very little chance I’m going to make it to the gym later on in the day.  On top of that, there’s plenty of good science about the health benefits of working out in the morning!  You’ll certainly have more productive energy all day if you get your blood going!

3. Eat a Decent Breakfast

No, this is not another “most important meal of the day” lecture, but it’s important to get your body going with some fresh energy.  I usually eat a light breakfast on workdays and save the carb-overload pancakes for the weekend. The take-away however, is eat something to get your blood sugar up and your mind operating.  Skipping breakfast is a recipe for a morning with a short temper and probably overeating at lunch…which could lead to that afternoon crash.  Stay productive with a decent breakfast.

4. Catch Up on What’s Up – The Morning “Intel Brief”

Whether its your business, your family, or the general state of the world, you can’t be productive if you start the workday in the dark.  Listen to the news, read the paper, talk to your spouse, ask your kids what their day holds, whatever: just don’t let the morning commute start without your morning intelligence brief.  If you do, you’re more likely to miss an opportunity–personal or professional–than if you had spent a little time invested in “intelligence gathering.”

5. Plan For The Day

A productive day doesn’t just “happen,” it’s carefully planned and executed.  In the military we publish the “plan for the day” or an “operations order,” but your plan need not be so formal. General Norman Schwarzkopf explained in his book, It Doesn’t Take A Hero, about a system he invented following the crash of a helicopter when he was a commander.  He began keeping an index card with a list of things that could go wrong that day on one side, and what could go right on the other.  My own system is to review my calendar and my boss’ calendars for the day and try to anticipate what will consume my time that day. Whatever your system, just make a plan and be prepared!

These five simple military leaders’ strategies will help you be productive each day.