Be Prepared to Be Courageous

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

We must be mentally prepared to be courageous, you never know when the call will come.

When I give my Five Be’s talk and I get to the part about “Be Courageous”, I spend most of the time on the subject of “Moral Courage.” The reason I do that is because few of us will get the opportunity to demonstrate “Physical Courage”, but we all get the chance to demonstrate “Moral Courage” on a daily basis. In the course of our daily lives, we won’t run into burning buildings, dodge Taliban gunfire while directing air strikes, or engage in a running gun battle with a madman.

Moral Courage on a Daily Basis

Most of us, however, get the chance to be morally courageous every day. We can stand up for someone being bullied, we can be honest when in our dealings with others even when it’s difficult, we can uphold standards of conduct and speech. These things are courageous because they require the virtue of Fortitude. We have to be strong on the inside and sometimes swim against the stream to do what’s right. It’s not always popular to do the right thing, but it’s always right. An ethics instructor I once had used to tell us constantly, “First Principles, gentlemen. If you start there you avoid a multitude of sins.” First Principles are things like, “It’s wrong for the strong to take advantage of the weak” or “It’s wrong to cheat,” etc. What he meant was there is such a thing as “Right” and “Wrong”–we all know this instinctively–it’s in the application of those Principles where we sometimes get ourselves into trouble. To avoid a misapplication, we need an objective system of ethics outside ourselves, and internal compass with an external orientation.

The Need for Courage Can Come Unexpectedly

I’m sure when Air Force Master Sergeant Dan Wassom woke up the morning that a tornado would take his life, he hadn’t planned to be courageous. The tornado struck after dinner, around 7pm, and Wassom calmly acted to protect his family. One doesn’t “fight” a tornado, but how one responds to a crisis affects those around them. As a combat veteran, Wassom must’ve understood that he couldn’t panic because his family depended on him and would take their cue from him on how to act. According to Military.com,

Wassom’s wife told his parents that he remained calm, cool and collected even as the monster twister began to consume their 2,300-square-foot home.  As Wassom bent his 6-foot-2 frame over his youngest daughter, forming a semi-protective cocoon over her, a heavy structural beam struck the back of his neck and a one-by-four impaled his chest. Lorelai lost a toe on her left foot and suffered a serious injury to her right shoulder, but she, along with her mother and sister, Sydney, survived.

Wassom was a hero because he kept his head and acted even though anyone in his situation would’ve been terrified. Courage, it’s said, is not the absence of fear, but doing what’s necessary despite being afraid.

Prepare to Be Courageous

The best way to be the one who “rises to the occasion” is to be prepared. Be the guy who has the jumper cables, first aid kit, and chemlights in your trunk. Get rudimentary first aid training, think through what you’d do in a natural disaster, etc. You might not ever be called upon to be a hero, but then again…

 


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: A Straighforward Guide to Life.

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Leaders Create a Culture of Respect

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leadership by Experience

The second brick in the foundation of leadership that’s necessary when leading leaders is respect. The leader must model respect and demand it of their teams.

Respect must go both ways, up as well as down, and most of the burden falls on the leader’s shoulders. Respect is both inherent, and it is earned.  It is earned by the way we do our jobs, the way we treat others, and how we carry ourselves. Just as important, respect for the organization is a necessary component.  Respect is also inherent in each person as a matter of simple human dignity.

Leaders Set the Tone

It is very important for a leader to explicitly outline his or her expectations in this regard. Everyone should expect their co-workers and their leaders to follow the law, that’s a given. Our attitudes about the people we work with should convey that our hearts as well as our heads demonstrate our respect. The leader must also pledge that they will show respect to their team. A person who shows respect to others will create a “bubble of trust” around them. People will want to work with them and for them. Customers will want to do business with them. The more people in an organization that have built their reputations on mutual respect, the bigger that “bubble of trust” grows. When people know they’re respected by their teammates and leaders, they feel safe to perform, to take risks, and to be themselves.

A person who shows respect to others will create a “bubble of trust” around them.

Whenever I took command of a new unit, I made it very clear that we were to respect each other as Airmen and as persons. For us, that meant we used proper military customs and courtesies, we didn’t use foul language, and we respected each others’ dignity whether or not we agreed with our teammates’ choices or beliefs. Each person has a multitude of ways to describe them: sex, race, eye color, religion or no religion, national origin, etc. We are required by law to treat people equally in all things and not to treat someone differently because they are different from us. It’s not necessary for me to agree with everything another person thinks or believes, but it is necessary for me to treat them with the respect they deserve as a fellow human being.

Beyond mere adherence to the law, respect is recognizing that another human being has the same value as I do because they are.

Not Just for the Military

In the private sector, this is no different. Like the public sector, there are institutional policies and public law that require certain personal and institutional behaviors, but respect is not a legal requirement. Respect is much more than that. Beyond mere adherence to the law, respect is recognizing that another human being has the same value as I do because they are, not because of what they do, how much money they make, or what clothes they wear. Now, I can certainly perform rote behaviors and parrot legal scripts when dealing with others, but to truly show respect, that has to come from the heart. Again, I don’t have to condone behavior or agree with beliefs that don’t match my own; but the skilled leader, the effective leader, separates behavior from personhood and can show respect to anyone regardless of differences. This type of respect engenders respect in return.

Over the course of my career, I’ve led and worked with a number of people who were very different from me. Because we lived and worked in an environment where respect was the expected behavior, teams and friendships usually form quickly, even among very dissimilar people. We became friends with people we might never have even met, let alone socialized with, because the climate our leaders created and maintained required that we respect each other. When you start with respect for another person, most times the differences don’t really matter all that much.

Crimes are not Mistakes – Know the Difference

Of course, there are some things in the “just don’t do it” category, for example: sexual harassment, alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, racism, etc. These are inherently self-destructive behaviors that leaders cannot tolerate under any circumstances and go well beyond mere “philosophical differences.” In professions like heavy industry, construction, the military, police, or fire service, these sorts of self-destructive behaviors can have life or death consequences. In business, it can end careers and destroy companies.

…there are some things in the “just don’t do it” category, for example: sexual harassment, alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, racism, etc. These are inherently self-destructive behaviors that leaders cannot tolerate under any circumstances…

Leaders have to act quickly to prevent someone’s illegal choices from costing someone else their life or livelihood. In industrial settings, the consequences for the “just don’t do it” behaviors are similarly severe. However, not all of us work in a life and death profession. So while leaders in an office or small business may not have to deal with an industrial accident, business and personal consequences can be very severe. Moreover, an incidence of sexual harassment damages the victim and could expose the firm to legal action for not addressing the illegal behavior.

Leaders have to do the hard work of holding to personal, professional, and legal standards. To do otherwise doesn’t merely endanger personal reputation of the offender; it endangers the entire enterprise.

Today’s post is an excerpt from Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams. It’s available in the Lulu Bookstore and on Amazon, also on Kindle.


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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The Thumper Rule – If You Don’t Have Something Nice to Say

Posted Leave a commentPosted in The Five Be's

I heard my father’s voice in my head: “Be nice,” so I choked out a strained “thank you” through a fake smile. What I really wanted to say was, “Are you KIDDING me?!!” 

The young Airman standing in front of me had very proudly secured an all black Toyota Forerunner from the motor pool that he thought was, “a cool color.” In a place where the summer temperatures reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit, I had a black car without tinted windows. And I had to say “thank you.” In fact, if I’d said anything else, I’m sure I’d have crushed him because he thought he was doing me a favor. Not everyone has a black car in Kuwait. In fact, in the year I was there I never saw another black car! It was unheard of in the desert country of Kuwait because the Kuwaitis knew better.

As I tore my stunned gaze away from the solar oven that was about to be my command vehicle, I searched for something to say.  Heck, I’d have left there and had a beer to drown my sorrows–except General Order No 1 prohibited the consumption of alcohol in the Central Command Area of Responsibility. So, I smiled, thanked the young man, and left before I said something I knew I’d regret.

What Thumper Said–Sometimes

In the classic Disney film, Bambi, there is a scene when Bambi’s cottontail companion Thumper is corrected by his mother after he makes a rude comment about Bambi. In reply to his mother’s, “Thumper, what did your father tell you?”, he replies sweetly, “If you don’t have somethin’ nice to say, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” It’s good advice that seems more difficult to abide by in the digital age.

It’s easy in the heat of the moment and particularly online to be more direct and verbally aggressive than we would’ve been otherwise. It’s particularly easy when the interface between you and another person is a computer screen that you take with you everywhere (like your phone or tablet). It’s gotten so bad for some that a few friends of mine have abandoned all social media completely. I think a great many people, fearful of others’ harsh words or perhaps their own, have simply ceded the public square to the trolls.

Light a Candle

The truth is very, very few of us enjoy being mean or nasty. There are a few people out there who seem to thrive on the pain and embarrassment of others, but most people really don’t like confrontation or meanness. But just like the old saying, “Don’t curse the darkness, light a candle,” we can actually do something about it.

It starts with living out what you believe, and doing so in a positive and constructive way. As my own father wisely told me, “Taking the coat off someone else’s back doesn’t make mine any warmer.” He means, tearing others down doesn’t build us up–it actually brings all of us down together. If we truly believe that other humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “in the image and likeness of God,” shouldn’t we treat our fellow humans as if that were true? If we actually believe in the ideal that “all men are brothers”, shouldn’t our words and actions reflect that belief?

I think it should, and that’s our way to light a candle. When the conversation gets bad, we can find a way to show love to one another and bring a little peace with our words, or even silence. If you are human and mess up, then apologize as best you can and try to be better next time. Even if we need to correct something or defend ourselves or others, we can do that peacefully and with love.

That’s lighting a candle, too. And it’s also what Thumper would’ve done.

 


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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Back in the Saddle and How Can I Serve Better in 2018?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Announcements

It’s been a couple of months with no posts here and I know some have wondered about the hiatus (Dad, thanks for asking!). Well, I’ll tell you!

As I’ve transitioned to a new role in my new hometown, the blog had to take a back seat. But now that I’ve re-established myself in my new life, it’s time to return to the keyboard. So, “I’mmmm baaaack!”

Where I’ve Been

The end of the summer saw me officially leave active duty and begin a new job in the private sector. I learned quite a few things about that transition–or as I called it, “graduation”–that I’ll be sharing in upcoming blog posts. My network of friends and mentors was extremely supportive and I’m so very grateful for everyone’s support!

Of course, making that transition is time and energy-consuming–hence the hiatus. Still a lot going on but after 2 months I’ve finally found some daily rhythm. Leaving the military, Hawaii, and re-establishing your entire life in a new city is daunting! Thankfully, we received such a warm welcome here in New Braunfels that it’s already feeling like home. We really miss Hawaii, especially now as the temperatures are dropping! However, we’re feeling good to be close to family and are enjoying exploring the Texas Hill Country.

Looking Ahead

Being almost December, I’m also planning for the next year. It’s important for me to be responsive to the needs of my readers. What topics do you want covered? What questions do you have about leadership or character? Read any good books you’d like to share and have me review? I really want to know!

I’ll be returning to my usual weekly Wednesday post, and potentially more as I get cracking on some projects I’ve been working on over the last year that also took a back seat to my transition to civilian life. I’m excited to share them with you!

If you’re not a subscriber to the newsletter, I’d encourage you to do that as my subscribers get first dibs at specials and new stuff coming down the pike.

For readers who’ve stuck with me since September, thank you! Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and I’m looking forward to sharing Advent and Christmas with you all as we journey to the new year!

 


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 A Good Wingman

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Practical Leadership

Leading Leaders know followership means being a good wingman!In military aviation, the “wingman” is responsible for protecting the lead in a two-ship formation. As the “Lead” prosecutes the target, the “Wingman” watches his back and calls out threats. In this “two-ship” formation, there’s a leader and a follower, but they work together to accomplish the mission and get everyone back home. Put another way, the wingman is a good follower.

Followership is a key component to leadership, both in the team being led and in the leader herself.

In the military, we indoctrinate our new recruits into followership first and while we’re teaching them leadership. The reason we do that is because good followership is a prerequisite to good leadership. Contrary to what some may believe, good followership is not merely doing what one is told. That’s certainly not true in the American military where we follow the Prussian military tradition of placing our moral obligations above the orders of our superiors.  Put another way, good followership is not blind obedience, but rather it is the active participation by the follower in the leadership of the team.

Good followership is as essential as good leadership in the success of the team. If the leader is the only one thinking, the team will be mired in mediocrity. Good followership is an important part of the Leaders Lead principle…when the top leader empowers and supports teams in developing their own leadership the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. People will begin thinking ahead, anticipating problems, and being good wingmen to each other as well as to the boss. When everyone focuses on serving others, the result can be very powerful.

“Lead” has to model the “wingman” behavior as well, and in my book, Leading Leaders, I discuss the importance of leaders’ modeling good followership:

As a leader, you can build good followers by modeling the behavior yourself. For example, when given direction from your boss, pass it on with the same enthusiasm as if it were your own idea. That might take a little acting at times, but if you hold your boss up to ridicule, you’ll be opening the door to your subordinates to ridicule you. Loyalty is contagious; demonstrate loyalty and you’ll engender loyalty in return.

So be a good wingman, and you’ll get good wingmen in return. With a solid “two-ship” flying in a tight formation, you’ll hit your target and bring the birds home safely!