What I Saw in Houston

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Team Rubicon “Greyshirts” of FOB FRIENDSWOOD prepare to move out for the day.

Last week I deployed with Team Rubicon on my first ever disaster response operation: Operation Hard Hustle.  I can tell you I got more out of the experience than I gave—serving others and doing important work in the company of other military veterans and first responders is soul-cleansing. This post is my reflection on that week.

Doing good work and serving others is my primary reason for volunteering, but there is a secondary benefit as well. The experience also provides a place for veterans to be among other veterans, and to reconnect with the “brotherhood.” Having spent my entire adult life in uniform, I relish that connection.  WW II soldier and Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Bill Mauldin called it the “Benevolent And Protective Brotherhood Of Them What Has Been Shot At”, and that’s a discription I’ve thought about many times over the course of my career.

My Air Force specialty was civil engineering and installation management, which means when bad things happened I went to work. Being retired from the Air Force, I was now on the sidelines of a disaster happening just a few hours by car away from me. I felt the need to be there, and so enter Team Rubicon. I’ve written about Team Rubicon before, but in a nutshell it’s a veteran-led organization who respond to disasters. When we were in the military, we received a lot of training on handling chaos and trauma—some of us were medics, rescue personnel, infantry, engineers, etc. Team Rubicon allows us to put our military experience and training to work as well as continue to serve.

I can tell you I got more out of the experience than I gave—serving others and doing important work in the company of other military veterans and first responders is soul-cleansing.

Pack Your Stuff

My “Go Bag” is packed.

When Hurricane Harvey headed for the Texas coast gaining strength, I felt I just couldn’t sit idle while people were about to have their lives shattered when I had the skills to help. On Thursday with Harvey’s rain pounding and wind howling outside, I filled out the forms, did the training, and submitted my background check. And waited.

I didn’t have to wait long.

On Sunday afternoon I received the coveted “green dot” on my TR Profile meaning I was cleared, and an email with deployment orders to join the first wave of volunteers at Forward Operating Base (FOB) FRIENDSWOOD in Friendswood, Texas.  Most of my field gear and camping equipment is still in storage in Colorado, so I was off to Academy and Walmart to get a few things, then on Tuesday morning I drove the three hours down to our FOB for operations in the area. Our Area of Operations (AO) would include Friendswood, Dickinson, League City, Alvin, and Hitchcock. The Incident Command team of four seasoned TR volunteers was there a few days ahead of us, and we began operations as soon as we got signed in.

Professionals Talk Logistics

Warm welcome from Friendswood!

The first order of business for the handful of new arrivals was to set the logistics for the remainder of the deployment. We re-positioned vehicles, drew tools and equipment, and set up two dozen cots in the gym that would be our living quarters. I must say that the good people who hosted and supported us at Friendswood United Methodist were amazing. The fed us three meals a day, washed our clothes, and provided small comforts like toiletries, home baked goodies, and pillows. Can’t say enough about them and their servants’ hearts!

On Day 2 while a most of our team headed out to do Damage Assessments and work at a house (“Strike Team”), three of us headed to a warehouse down at the airport that would be our Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration (RSOI) center for Greyshirts (TR volunteers) arriving in the next week. We spend the morning cleaning it and getting the RSOI center ready, then back to the FOB after repositioning more vehicles, picking up others, and drawing more equipment for our teams.

“It’s Too Dangerous for My Children”

More Greyshirts arrive on Saturday!

On Days 3-5, I was finally able to get into the field and begin working with the people affected by the flooding. We went house to house in a Dickinson and Friendswood meeting with residents trying to cope with the wreckage that had been their homes. Whether a house got 4 inches or 4 feet of water, the damage was largely the same. Imagine taking everything you own and piling it in a wet, moldy heap in the front yard. That’s what the flooded areas look like.

One woman took the moment with us away from her family to shed a few tears with my teammate, afraid to be anything other than positive and strong in front of her husband and her kids. Another calmly told us the story of getting out of his house as the water went from ankle-deep to waist deep to chest deep so quickly they got out with the clothes on their backs in the boat they had in the driveway. He told us sadly about that during the evacuation, one of the family dogs was swept under the boat and drowned.

Another family in Dickinson told of a harrowing story of getting out as the flood waters rose. A woman in her 60’s walked her disabled brother and elderly neighbor through waist deep water following the yellow line on the road—none of them could swim. When she arrived at her 92-year-old mother’s house, she evacuated all of them by boat with the clothes on their backs.

Another woman flagged us down and told us she needed help. She spoke English slightly better than I speak Spanish, and we communicated in a blend of the two languages. While her young daughter slept in the car seat, she told us with tears welling in her eyes that she discovered only after the flood that she’d been renting her house, rather than paying a mortgage. With two little ones with her, and her son in the Navy in California, she was unsure what to do next because she couldn’t go home (“demasiado peligroso para mis niños –it’s too dangerous for my children”).

There are thousands of stories like that.

I completed the last two days of my tour in the command post as Deputy Ops, and it was gratifying to see the work we gathered getting scheduled and teams dispatched. At the end of seven amazing days, I said good-bye to the team and returned home.

Everyone we met had an unshakable faith in God. Through the flood waters and devastation of their homes, their faith in God and in each other had remained unvanquished.

Houston Strong

Despite the occasional tears, two things struck me: the resilience of the people and the amazing example of who we are as Texans and Americans these people provided.

First, Houstonians specifically and Texans in general are incredibly resilient. Many of the houses we visited had already had a volunteer group come through and provide initial demolition assistance. It’s imperative to get the wet stuff out of the house quickly to avoid dangerous mold growth. Neighbors shared food by having cookouts and checked on each other.  One man we met assembled a trailer with a grill and coolers, worked a deal with the local Walmart manager to buy food, and then circulated around neighborhoods feeding people. Even those we met who opened their hearts and cried a little always took a big breath and let resolve to go forward settle on them before we left. Everyone we met had an unshakable faith in God. Through the flood waters and devastation of their homes, their faith in God and in each other had remained unvanquished.

Second, spending a week with volunteers and Houstonians reinforced to me that America is still who we thought she is. America remains the City on a Hill. Men and women from all over the country came to help Houstonians recover. Groups of volunteers from countless churches, neighborhoods, and civic organizations went house to house to help strangers. We saw perhaps a dozen other volunteer groups working in each neighborhood.

While as a Texan I believe there’s something special about Texas, I’ve traveled enough and lived enough other places to know that if Texans indeed did anything truly extraordinary it was only to remind our fellow Americans who we are as a country.

Our team visited with men and women of every color, creed, and background. Time and again I heard them tell me, “All that division is crap. We’re Americans, we’re Texans.” We honestly believe All Men Are Created Equal and in the “image and likeness of God”; it’s not a slogan here. I’m not naive, I know there are problems and people sometimes do bad, even evil, things to each other. But I also know the vast majority of people around us are good and decent, and will be there for you when things get bad. While as a Texan I believe there’s something special about Texas, I’ve traveled enough and lived enough other places to know that if Texans indeed did anything truly extraordinary it was only to remind our fellow Americans who we are as a country.

Move to the Sound of the Guns

Napoleon’s standing order for units out of communication with his headquarters was to “move to the sound of the guns.” It is an imperative to act and not wait for someone to tell you what to do. There was no gunfire on the Texas Gulf Coast, but there was a battle to be waged against Nature and it was good men and women who moved to the metaphorical “sound of the guns” when things went bad. Napoleon’s order is something military people and first responders do instinctively, and I believe there’s something in the Texan and American character that drives that instinct. We saw that play out on TV countless times when men and women “moved to the sound of the guns” to help their neighbors. Federal, State, local authorities, and volunteers didn’t wait for someone to give them orders; they acted and worked together to save lives and now to rebuild them.

My Team Rubicon teammates were there doing swift water rescues, and we’ll be there to help Houston rebuild. It’s TR men and women: veterans, first responders, medical professionals, and a few civilians in the mix who represent what’s right about America.

The City on a Hill may have a few potholes and broken windows, but she remains a shining example of who America truly is as a country. We really are who we say we are, and I believe that now more than ever.


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 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 Five Be’s.

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

 

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Hurricane Harvey – How You Can Help

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Texans remain resilient in the aftermath of Hurricane HarveyI’m sure you all have been watching the coverage of the devastation on the Texas Gulf Coast. Many of you have been asking, “How can I help?” That is the mark of a true leader, to look outside themselves and seek to help others! Thank you to the dozens who’ve already reached out to me looking for resources!

As you might expect, there are people out there who are collecting and updating information–the Hurricane Harvey-Houston and Surrounding Areas Facebook Group has done a really superb job of collecting links and contact info. Well done guys! Here’s the link to their Google Doc with all the info. Be sure to check out ALL the tabs at the bottom! There are tabs with links to provide financial donations, as well as where to go to volunteer.

Official sources are always best, so here they are:

Harris County Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Federal Emergency Management Agency (Harvey Page)

If you’re looking to contribute, either financially or as a volunteer, please consider the Red Cross, Catholic Charities, or one of the host of other organizations listed here.  Don’t forget that blood banks, even those far removed from the disaster area, will need blood donations. The Red Cross blood donation page is here.

If you’re a vet looking to volunteer, then I’d suggest either The Mission Continues or Team Rubicon.

High performers, now is a good time to step up and lend a hand to help your neighbor. The people of south Texas and soon southern Louisiana will be counting on us. I know you won’t let them down!

Lead, Inspire, and Achieve!!


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 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 Five Be’s.

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

 

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High Performing Leaders Live a Balanced Life

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Anyone can put their head down and power through life, however, it takes a mature person to understand that how you live is equally important as what you accomplish. -Mickey Addison, The Five Be’s

 

 

We sat in the Officer’s Club at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho: three lieutenants with cold beers in hand trying to impress each other with the hours we were working. It was a perverse matter of pride for us–and lots of others at the time–to brag about the amount of time we were working. Bragging about children’s birthdays missed, anniversaries spent away, and late nights was a badge of honor. Forget family life, personal development, even physical fitness; our sole measure of merit was how many hours we put in at work.

We lieutenants were seriously out of balance; how times have changed! Remember, this was during the Cold War, before the Air Force and our country was pulled into war in ‘90 in Iraq and a decade before 9/11. By the end of my Air Force career, we developed many better ways to measure our effectiveness, both as individuals and as teams. We’re all ready and willing to work hard when it’s necessary, but as a former commander once said, “You can’t run at 110% all the time.” There are still sacrifices to be made, but I think we’re a much better military as a result of paying attention to “Be Balanced.”

Be Balanced

If 30 years in the Air Force leading Airmen taught me nothing else, it taught me the lesson of “Be Balanced.” Living a life in balance makes a leader more effective, and more resilient. By attending to our mental, physical, and spiritual balance, we store up strength like in a battery. Then, when the time comes to reach into those reserves, we have something left to draw from. Mental balance means proper management of stress, and it also means nourishing our minds with new and interesting things. Leaders are learners. Physical balance means taking care of our bodies–we only get one of those–so proper food, sleep, and exercise delivers a body that won’t quit when the going gets tough. Finally, spiritual balance means feeding our human spirit good things, storing up spiritual energy in our internal “batteries” so that when times are hard, we have a reserve. It means a recognition that we are more than mere flesh and blood, and need a connection to things larger than ourselves.

Balance Brings Resilience

Agility and resiliency are popular topics in today’s business leadership circles. The reason that’s so is because business is learning what the military has know for some time: people are the weapon system and the real reason for victory. Technology and organizations change, but people who fight are the reason we succeed or fail. A team of balanced people can perform at very high levels, and still have “gas in the tank” for more!

 


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 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 Five Be’s.

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

 

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Why You Need a Coach

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I need a coach. Anyone can trudge through a task or lesson on their own, but if I truly want to get better I’m in need of a coach. I’ve been an athlete all my life. I started soccer at age 6, baseball at age 8, and I lettered in both football and track in high school. Attending a senior military college and then entering the Air Force afterwards meant intramural sports, physical training and annual physical fitness tests from the age of 18 until my retirement from the service this past June. Of course, we lead active lives in our house as well: hiking, cycling, CrossFit, surfing. Well, you get the idea. I’m not a couch potato.

The reason for that self-absorbed preamble is to establish that at 52 years, I’m not a novice to physical fitness or the gym—and despite all that experience I STILL need a coach!

Successful People are Lifelong Learners

The man in the picture at left is one of my CrossFit coaches, Coach Andrew, of New Braunfels CrossFit. In my last job, my commute and work schedule combined to prevent me from going to a CrossFit “box” (gym), so I worked out on my own. Sure enough, working out with no coaching and no partner to provide some accountability meant I’ve developed many bad habits. That’s where Coach Andrew comes in. He’s there to correct, guide, and encourage—exactly what a coach should be. I can go out and work hard on my own, sweat, and stay in shape. If I want to improve, however, I need a coach.

As I discuss in my book, The Five Be’s, a key part of being healthy and successful is nourishing our minds—and that means being a lifelong learner. Learning requires a teacher, and putting thought into practice requires a coach. You can make a lot of progress watching YouTube videos and practicing on your own, but if you really want to improve then get a coach! One of the defining characteristics of successful people is being in “learning mode” their entire lives. President Bush (43) for example, was a voracious reader who consumed 95 books during his first year as president, and after he left office learned to paint!

What Makes a Great Coach

A great coach has three defining characteristics: (1) Technical Mastery, (2) Ability to Motivate, and (3) Patience. Technical Mastery is essential because a coach must have something to give; we expect our coaches to be experts. Technical Mastery is not enough, however, because the coach must be able to motivate the student and then patiently guide the improvement. There’s many people out there with one or two of these characteristics, great coaches possess all three!

When looking for a coach, whether it’s athletics, speaking, or executive leadership, look for someone whose an expert who can walk with you as you learn. Just as I need a coach to break my bad CrossFit habits, we all need people in our lives who can hold us accountable and make us better. A good coach imparts knowledge, a great coach inspires you to be better.

Be Balanced

To Be Balanced, you must nourish your minds and be a lifelong learner. Desire and hard work will only get you so far, to really improve you’ll need a coach.

Be sure to check out The Five Be’s, available in a few weeks in paperback and hardback!

 


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 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 Five Be’s.

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

 

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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.

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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.

What Is Courage? (Part I)

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Mickey is in the midst of moving his household from Hawaii to Texas, so please enjoy this “classic” post from 2016. Original posts will resume in September. Also, don’t forget that The Five Be’s Second Edition goes live on Lulu and Amazon next month!!


Lt Harry Brubaker (William Holden) writing in a scene from the film The Bridges at Toko-ri (Paramount Pictures photo)

In the film, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, the Task Force Commander, Admiral Tarrant, wonders aloud about the courage of the men fighting under his command after a successful mission claims the life of a pilot and the helicopter crew sent to rescue him. Watching flight operations aboard the carrier, Tarrant remarks, “Where do we get such men?”

That question brings us face to face with trying to understand courage. Tarrant wondered at the courage to face bullets in a war far from home, but he is not the first to ask that question.

Here’s my definition: Physical courage is the ability to overcome fear and do what’s necessary in order to survive, save a life, accomplish a mission, or excel despite physical or psychological barriers.

Using this definition of physical courage obviously concerns overcoming external obstacles. To simplify, demonstrating physical courage is overcoming the “fight or flight” instinct., and choosing to fight. Physical courage results in facing danger or the threat of pain to accomplish a goal. Note the danger doesn’t have to be real – the mere threat of danger or pain can be enough to trigger a “fight or flight” response. What is more, “fight” doesn’t necessarily mean a physical altercation or use of weapons. In the context of physical courage, “fight” simply involves meeting a particular challenge head on, without avoidance.

Returning to Admiral Tarrant’s question, “Where do we get such men?” and rephrasing it to ask “Where does courage come from?” There are several answers to that question, it’s not as vague as you might think.

There is a physiological reason for courage. Researchers discovered by a very unique (and bizarre) experiment involving snakes and an MRI machine. The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, strapped test subjects in an MRI machine with a snake suspended mere inches above their heads. Using the MRI to track brain activity, researchers identified the specific area of the brain associated with courage, the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (SaCC). Using human’s natural snakes to stimulate a fear response, test subjects reported their level of fear as the snake was moved closer and closer until their fear became greater than their courage.

It’s an interesting experiment. As researchers are able to determine the role that hormones and pheromones play in the attraction between boys and girls yet cannot define “love”, neither can a purely physiological explanation satisfy our curiosity about the source of courage. As I have said many times before, humans are more complex than merely our biology. Surely biology can influence courage – a large person in a crowd of small ones is more apt to be courageous than the opposite. But when it comes to courage, biology is not the determining factor.

History is populated with stories of unexpected heroism from unlikely people. The 98-pound weakling who stands up to the bully on the school yard, and the grandmother who faces down the burglar are legendary, in part because it is documented and has repeated occurrences. Movie makers have repeatedly made films about the plucky young person who saves the day while facing down a larger and more ferocious enemy. Do these real, and fictional, people have an oversized “courage center” in their brains?

Perhaps, but I’d like to think it’s more than that.

Next week, more on what courage IS and ISN’T.


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 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 Five Be’. 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!

 

My Favorite BE – To Be Authentically Free

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Over the next few weeks, I’ll be spotlighting ideas and concepts from my book, The Five Be’s, in advance of the release of the Second Edition in September. Over the last two weeks, we discussed authentic pride in oneself and highlighted a really cool young entrepreneur. This week, it’s all about being authentically free.

When I say, “Be Free,” what comes to mind? Does it mean doing whatever we want? Well, what if I told you that to be authentically free we won’t be doing whatever we want to do, but that we’re able to choose what’s good for us?

What Freedom Isn’t

Our own passions and appetites can be those metaphorical chains that keep us bound. Being hindered from choosing good things for ourselves in order to be healthy is the definition of slavery. The fact that sometimes people make poor choices isn’t really news. In fact, there are entire industries that have grown up around treating various addictions from substance abuse to porn to shopping and even internet use. Whenever we allow our appetites to begin to force choices on us, we’re no longer free. So even though we have have “freely” chosen to make that first internet purchase, once we lose the ability to stop maxing out that credit card we’re no longer free. As I used to tell my Airmen, “Beer and XBox is not a hobby.”

Authentic Freedom

Authentic freedom means we’re truly able to make our own choices and we’re not bound by our appetites and passions. As St John Paul II once said, “It’s the freedom to do what we ought.” It might seem like a no brainer, but often choosing what’s good for us requires sacrifice. To be physically fit, or successful in business, or a good father, we have to put in the work and master ourselves. Sometimes it’s not fun to get up at 5am to go to the gym, but the results are worth the effort. That same principle applies to every other part of our life as well. If we’re authentically free, we’ll be able to choose to make the sacrifice in order to gain something good.

Rules are Rules

Being free does not mean we don’t have to follow the rules. What it does mean is we voluntary chose to take on those rules for ourselves. It’s not a very difficult concept, really, and we do it each time we get in the car. By obeying the traffic laws and signage, we are free to go anywhere we like and arrive safely. When we flaunt those rules and disobey the law we put ourselves and others in danger. When I was at Texas A&M, we ascribed to the Aggie Code of Honor: An Aggie will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do. In accepting the title of Texas Aggie, we bound ourselves to that Code. Living by that Code gave us all kinds of freedom, namely in the trust we could place in our fellow Aggies and confidence in our own academic ability. Do the work, adhere to the Code, gain wisdom and knowledge.

Be Free

Being authentically free is foundational to being the a healthy and successful person. It’s the reason “Be Free” is my favorite “BE.”


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 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 Five Be’. 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!

 

Seizing the Opportunity

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

Today’s post will be a little different than usual, but it has a tie back to The Five Be’s as well as a really cool story about a hard-working young entrepreneur.

Bella is the Bomb

One of the best parts of moving to a new community is seeing as extraordinary what fades into the background for others. So it was that on our first weekend in our new hometown of New Braunfels, Texas, we came across Erin Christman and her daughter Bella. Erin is a jewelry designer, and at her New Braunfels Farmers’ Market booth we noticed something definitely not-jewelry. Slime. Yep, that squishy stuff you can make with Elmers’ Glue and other ingredients.

When we stopped to ask about the slime, young Bella appeared with smiles and plenty of explanation about how it was made. She mentioned her Etsy store and Instagram account that she’d already sold a bunch to kids around the country. I think that is incredibly cool. Taking the initiative to see an opportunity in the current slime craze shows a lot of foresight and entrepreneurial spirit. It’s rare in adults, and it’s gratifying to see it in young people. I’m sure her parents are very proud of her, and they should be!

Get Out There and Get After It

The underlying message of The Five Be’s is being the successful and happy person God made us to be. Being secure in ourselves, authentically free, and seeking to live a virtuous and balanced life opens doors we might not even know are there. It takes courage, of course, but that courage is easier to find when we are living an authentic life. Every person has something to offer, that’s the shorthand for “Be Proud of Who You Are.” I know it sounds simple, but it’s really true! Once we recognize the worth of others and of ourselves, lots of good things flow from that truth.

Congrats to Bella for her entrepreneurial spirit and for seizing the opportunity, and well-done Erin for raising a great young person!


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 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 Five Be’s.

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

 

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Be Authentically Proud of Who You Are

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in The Five Be's

Being proud of who you are is really about understanding your self-worth. Consider the following story:

There was a woman who worked for me who suffered from a crisis of confidence in her own worth. She was extremely technically competent in her job, a friend to those around her, and a good leader. Her lack of confidence, however, manifested itself in how she valued her own sense of worth–she defined it by what people thought of her and the “face” she presented to the world. One day I learned that she’d bought a car she couldn’t really afford because she believed someone in “her position should have the right kind of car.” Despite the fact that she couldn’t afford the payments, she was reluctant to return the car to the dealership–until I took her outside and showed her my 10-year old, beat up, unairconditioned, sun-bleached Jeep Cherokee.

“That’s your car?” she asked.

“Yep, do you think any less of me now that you know that?” I replied.

“No,” she said softly.

“Good, then give yourself permission to get a car you can afford and know we respect you for who you are, not what you own.

Authentic Pride vs Counterfeit Pride

All persons have an inherent dignity and infinite value, not because of our looks, wealth, power, accomplishments, or rank, but because we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” The United States’ Declaration of Independence includes this truth in it’s text. The idea of “all Men are created equal” is likewise central to our system of laws, military and civil. It’s in the sense of fair play required of us in business ethics. We all accept this truth when we’re playing sports or administering the law–the idea that each person has equal standing and that the “rules” should apply to everyone equally. It’s why we get offended when we learn of an athlete using performance enhancing drugs or cheating in some way; it offends our sense of “justice” and attacks the idea that “all Men are created equal.”

Therefore, it follows that just like the woman who measured her own worth in possessions and appearances, there is a difference between Authentic Pride and Counterfeit Pride. Authentic Pride builds up, Counterfeit Pride tears down. Authentic Pride is in achievement or accomplishment after hard work and sacrifice. Counterfeit Pride takes credit for others’ work. Authentic Pride is about who a person is on the inside, Counterfeit Pride is only interested in externals and appearance.

Leaders Cultivate Authentic Pride

High performing teams become that way over the long term because they become mutually supporting and proud of who they are as persons not the accomplishments of others. Many a sports team has become a bit too enamored with their legacy and forgotten to actually do the work necessary to earn it anew for themselves. When leaders cultivate a sense of authentic pride and lead people in doing the work, they cultivate high performance and grow leaders. When people are invested in building up others, they also build up themselves.

Being authentically free also means being able to choose what’s good for ourselves, without being held back by our passions and appetites. Clearly, if I’m giving up sleep to play video games and drink energy drinks all night, I’m no longer free. Substance abuse, inability to manage finances, porn, overeating, etc., all rob us of freedom in some way. We cannot be truly free until we’re able to freely choose what’s good for ourselves, and reject what harms ourselves and others.

Leaders Set The Tone

Just like the woman who looked to me for leadership on how to value her and her work, our people will count on us in some measure to inform their self worth. Remember, leaders are in the people business, and it’s often up to leaders to be sure people understand how valuable they truly are to the team because of who they are.


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 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 Five Be’. 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 Review: Warrior to Patriot Citizen Transition

Posted on 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 on 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!

 

On Civic Virtue, Respect, and Followership

Posted on Posted in The Five Be's
Jose Ferrer as Navy Lt Greenwald, “The Caine Mutiny” (Columbia Pictures, 1954)

Ever work for someone or have to be deferential to someone you didn’t respect or didn’t like? Fortunately for me, all the men and women I reported directly to were people I did respect. Civic virtue demands we understand how to respect the office rather than just the office holder.

Respect the Rank and the Office

Of course, and there’s a variety of ways to deal with a situation where the office holder isn’t necessarily someone we can respect personally, some good and some, well, not so good. No matter what, we always respect the rank, or the office, regardless of whether we respect the man or woman wearing it. In truth, there’s really only one way professionals–make that adults–deal with the idea that we respect the “rank” even when we don’t respect the man wearing it. We use the proper titles and terms of address for others, and for Heaven’s sake, capitalize the name of God whether we believe in Him or not. We say “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” when speaking to officials, and each other. We don’t use foul language in public. The respect we show isn’t necessarily to the office holder–its to the office itself. Particularly in our American experience, office holders are transitory–but the ideals that hold our country together are not. When we show respect for the rank and the office, we are endorsing the ideals behind them that bind us together.

Civil Virtue Builds Societies

While a lack of respect for others is certainly not a new phenomenon, it has been very disheartening to me how coarse our language has become, and how little respect we show each other both online and in person. I think it’s time to revisit the idea of civic virtue–those virtues and ideals that put the civil peace ahead of our own desire to express ourselves. In fact, these days we talk a lot about “rights.” While everyone has a right to be rude, it’s destructive to the civil peace and ultimately to the person being rude. Being authentically free is not doing whatever we want, it’s being free of shackles so we choose whats good for us. I once heard a protocol officer remind her staff that the purpose of custom and protocol was to ensure everyone knew what to do and therefore everyone felt more comfortable. Civic virtue–civility–does the same thing. When we know the people we are interacting with will treat us with respect, we are much more likely to return that respect. The stress level lowers, the conversation centers on issues rather than personality. Oh, I know, the “yellow dog press” of the past always printed salacious things, and of course people being people we have always had bouts of incivility. But until recently, that was not the norm and it was not accepted in most company. There is a great deal to be said about good manners.

Right On Mr Greenwald

Which brings us to Jose Ferrer’s “Lt Greenwald” and lessons from film, and from a more civil time. Sometimes film is a great way to examine culture and even think out leadership. If you’ve never seen the 1954 film The Caine Mutiny, based on the Herman Wouk novel, then you really should. It’s one of my favorite films. Not only is The Caine Mutiny spectacularly good film making, it also gives some insight into virtues like loyalty, leadership, & followership. (Spoiler Alert)

What I think is a particularly good lesson in this film is the idea of respect for a position or office, even when we might not “like the cut of his suit” as Mr Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) says. While life is not a US Navy destroyer in a life-threatening gale, there is something to be said about respecting the position and being loyal to an institution even when respect for the person is difficult. In this case, the extreme situation of relieving the captain of the ship in order to save it would likely not been necessary if the officers had shown the most modest respect and loyalty to their boss. That respect for the “office” is how professionals act–not out of self-interest or on a personal agenda. In the Air Force we call that virtue “Service Before Self.” As a civic virtue, it’s called “patriotism” or “loyalty,” even “civic duty.” That’s the real lesson of the film. Had the officers of the Caine put their ship and their mission, and yes, even their captain’s welfare, ahead of their own there would not have been a mutiny. No careers destroyed, no ship and crew in peril in a storm.

Those virtues don’t just work in film, they work in the real world, too.

 


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!

 

What is Synchronized Leadership?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Sync to Swim

“The single most important element of success in war is leadership.”
Gen David Goldfein, USAF

As a young officer our formal leadership training consisted largely of learning our military specialty and a few vague lessons about balancing “mission and people.” They were lessons born of, simultaneously, thousands of years of military tradition and 20th century industrial mass production. In fact, our leadership classes were called “management” classes–which brings me to my point. Twentieth Century management theory and practice has it’s place, but management is no substitute for leadership. We manage things and processes, but we lead people. In the modern military as in modern business, we require agility–and we achieve agility only through good leadership.

But My Process is Solid!

When I was on a major command inspector general team many years ago, we went to a fighter wing for an Operational Readiness Inspection where we expected the wing to do very well. The unit had a great reputation, and reported readiness ratings in the top tier. When we arrived, however, we saw a different unit altogether.

The Airmen in the wing were so dispirited they could, literally, barely look up. I had inspected dozens of units prior and seen many dozens since, and have never seen 2,500 people shuffling around looking at their feet before. The wing commander–the equivalent to a CEO–had simply run them into the ground. They feared their commander, and worse, had lost confidence in their own ability. They felt defeated even though they were, in fact, highly professional and competent. All the inspectors saw it. The wing ended up passing the inspection, barely, but in spite of their commander and not because of his leadership. They were professionals, and wouldn’t allow themselves to fail. Frankly, it was a close run thing and several times during the inspection it could’ve gone the other way. Their processes were solid, they followed all the procedures, but without confidence in their leadership they were simply going through the motions.

It’s fairly common in business for a company to be doing everything right process-wise and see their performance fall precipitously when a bad leader is at the helm. Ruinous business partner relationships, poor ethics, or just plain ill temper are common reasons to see even highly profitable and well-known companies falter. The story of the leadership failures at American Apparel is a famous case, but there are countless others. Leadership, not just project or process management, truly matters.

Syncing It Up

Good leaders understand looking after the people on the team is a prerequisite to success, not the “icing” on top. As leaders, we certainly have to get the mission done, and we also have to serve the institution, but first we have to care for the people entrusted to our charge. This is finding the “sweet spot” in your leadership mission. Our institutions have requirements in the form of policies, culture, and profit or mission objectives. The individual tasks or projects we manage on also have requirements such as budget, timeliness, stakeholder communication, etc. The people on our team, likewise, have needs such as job satisfaction, growth and development, and compensation. Leaders must harmonize these three things and optimize the “sweet spot” where they converge. The bigger the sweet spot, the more the convergence, and the higher performance you can achieve.

Originally posted on General Leadership


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 as a thank you!

 

Synchronize Leadership to Achieve Agility

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Sync to Swim

Take a look at any photo of industrial production during the Second World War and think about the scale and volume of it. Any way you slice it, it’s impressive! Millions of workers producing millions of items from bombers to Liberty Ships to trousers. The emphasis then was on process efficiency and so we developed dozens of management theories and practice to optimize quality and production. I’m sure there were many good or even great leaders in that most impressive of industrial eras, but that sort of mass production by the millions of people is just not how we work in the 21st Century. To be successful in the current era, we need to be agile. Enter the Synchronized Leadership Model.

Synchronizing Institutional, Project, & People

There is a “sweet spot” where leaders can cultivate high performance–the intersection of the needs of the Institutions we serve, the Projects we manage, and the People we lead. Twentieth Century management theory largely addresses only production efficiency or personal motivation. Those theories are perfectly fine for what they are, but they are inadequate to describe the total environment 21st Century leaders find themselves working in. Our companies and institutions have needs such as profitability, company ethics, culture, and governance. Similarly, the task at hand or project we’re working on has it’s own set of requirements such as schedule, budget, deliverables, and quality. Project managers know that list as the “iron triangle.” Finally, leaders are charged to care for and develop the people in our charge–those people have needs as well. Bob is creative, Sue is good with numbers, Alex likes to work alone, and Sally is a good leader; choosing the right person for each task and developing people in your organization are key requirements of leading the team.

Effectiveness and Efficiency

Project leaders have to strive for the “sweet spot” and avoid the trap of pitting one against the other. In seeking to serve the institution, accomplish the task, and lead the people we can’t simply pretend that efficiency and effectiveness are enemies. Certainly there are times when we must prioritize efficiency and focus on conserving resources and avoiding risk. Likewise, there are times when we must be effective above all and push the organization even to the point of over-consuming resources and taking risks to get the mission done. Those are the extreme cases, of course. It’s possible to develop and grow your people and serve the institution by alignment with policies and values and accomplish the assigned mission. I know there’s a “sweet spot” because I’ve seen exactly this behavior in high performing teams. The bigger the “sweet spot” in those three areas, the higher performing the team.

Bottom Line

When leaders don’t force themselves into false choices like choosing effectiveness or efficiency then they are truly high performing leaders. Creating the “sweet spot” of Institutional, Project, and People needs means harmonizing and optimizing.  


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 as a thank you!