Dynamic Dozen: Know Yourself and Seek Self Improvement

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Leadership Quote AFS

Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.
― Heraclitus

One of the most valuable lessons I learned as a new “fish” in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets was I would never be a leader until I learned to follow first. Believe me, an Aggie Cadet follows like hell their first year. In addition to the academic demands of our coursework, we were required to join a club, and attend various sporting and University events. Our upperclassmen also led us in volunteer work and intramural sports.

What my upperclassmen were trying to give us the space and example to do, was to discover who we are as individuals, and to develop in us the desire for continuous self improvement. For people to grow into maturity, these skills are important–for leaders, they’re vital. You can’t lead anyone if you don’t know who you are or where you want to go.

Know Yourself

Getting to know yourself is a lifelong pursuit, and there are no shortcuts to the journey. You can go to seminars and read books, and those are helpful aids to discovery, but the only sure way to learn who you are is to step out and live life. As I told my Airmen many times, “Don’t be a cave dweller. You can’t live your life coming home to XBox and energy drinks–get outside and do something!” Experiencing life is the only sure way to learn who you are and what you’re capable of doing. Obviously, this approach involves risk–you might fail–but even those failures can illuminate our character and our aptitude. I’m not talking about living recklessly or violating your conscience. What I am talking about is living deliberately instead of allowing life to happen to you. Set goals, take (reasonable) chances, and be prepared to make mistakes. Thomas Edison famously spoke about the number of times he failed to make a light bulb before he succeeded.

Learning about yourself means knowing what you want and setting about getting to that destination. That means you do have to do some introspection, but once you’ve settled on a direction: move out. If you allow life to just happen instead of living each day deliberately, you’ll never get to the next step: seeking self improvement.

Continuous Self Improvement

One of the hallmarks of every great leader is each continued to seek to improve themselves. To do that, we need to understand the ways we see ourselves and can improve ourselves. I like to think of the human person in three facets: Mind, Body, and Spirit. In approaching your life as seeking balance between these three sides or facets of your person, you can take deliberate steps to improve yourself. I was privileged to attend several in-residence professional military education colleges, and I remember being awed by the very high quality of the guest speakers we heard. Each of them, man and woman, military and civilian, were high achievers: generals, military heroes, C-suite executives, statesmen, and professional athletes. All of them had a couple of things in common: they were early risers and they continued to improve themselves in each facet of their person. They were widely read and continued to keep up with current literature; they found time to exercise regularly, and they spent time attending to their human spirit.

As leaders, our commitment to continuous self improvement not makes us better people, it also increases our effectiveness. The sort of leader who is a life-long learner and always seeking to better himself is the same sort of person who sees opportunity when others see disaster. Indeed, a commitment to continuous self improvement usually translates to a leader whose eyes are on the horizon. Those men and women are people others want to follow, and better yet, they are leaders who know where to take their teams.

Summing Up

Leaders who know themselves and seek to improve themselves are exactly the sorts of people we love to follow.

 

Originally posted on GeneralLeadership.com

The Army Has Heart

Posted Leave a commentPosted in From the Blogs
Airmen atop Koko Head
PACAF Airmen atop Koko Head. Hawaii Kai, Oahu. 2014

Over at Small Wars Journal, there’s an article about the Head-Hands-Heart Leadership Model that fits hand-in-glove with my own “Leading Leaders” philosophy. It’s a thoughtful and well written article about the basics of leadership: know yourself, know your people, know where you’re going.

Leading people is a “whole person” kind of endeavor: we have to engage our mind and heart and body in the effort or we fail. Moreover, we have to understand we’re dealing with real people as well–not robots–and as leaders we need to engage their whole person. Sometimes leaders will make mistakes, nobody is perfect, so when that happens remember your humility and try again. The article from Small Wars Journal is a good way to think about how to engage in deliberate interpersonal leadership that’s applicable in any environment!

The Hands, Head and Heart Leadership Model | Small Wars Journal

The diverse nature of the relationships in an organization, as well as the complexity of problems faced emphasizes the three aspects of leadership education we previously described, as well as the concepts of training. The Hands, Head and Heart Model uses the ideas inherent in both training and education to describe a leadership model that fits in a diverse organizational setting. Training involves doing, applying, executing, and behaving. Figuratively, it is the “hands” of the model. By contrast, education is the knowing or thinking and represents the “head” of the model. It involves principles, doctrine, rules, and knowledge of the individual or organization. The third area of the model is the “heart,” or the becoming part. This involves the end state or vision. It is where values, beliefs, and purpose come into play. The Hands, Head and Heart Model fits exactly with the Army’s Be-Know-Do Model developed over 30 years ago.

Short week this week, so here’s wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!