Sunday, February 17, 2013

My basic leadership principles

I learned these leadership principles as a soldier:
  • Do my job and my duty.
  • Take ownership.
  • Accomplish the mission.
  • Improve my craft (technical and tactical proficiency).
  • Set (define and exemplify) the standard for my soldiers.
  • As a baseline, work at least as hard in my lane as my hardest working soldier.
  • Recognize when to micromanage, when to pitch in, and when to get out of the way.
  • Know my soldiers.
  • Take care of my soldiers.
  • Create leaders from my soldiers.
  • Peer leadership.
  • Active followership.
  • Respect the enemy.
I carried over those principles and added these leadership principles as a student activist:
  • A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and the beginning steps are no less than creation.
  • Inspire with Vision.
  • Do.
  • Seize opportunities with aggression and intelligence, for I understand opportunities multiply as they are seized.
  • Learn the parameters of the operating environment and its players, and continually update my intelligence.
  • Defining the problem frames the solution.
  • Strategize and outline a framework to be filled in. Start with the goals, then work backwards from there.
  • Be imaginative and think big, even if we can only act small for now.
  • Identify the group's organic needs and the mission's needs. They are related but not the same.
  • Know my own strengths and weaknesses to fulfill the needs.
  • Seek out teammates and resources to fulfill the needs.
  • Communicate and foster a culture of communication.
  • Articulate the 'why', not just the 'how' and 'what'.
  • Knowledge is power and actionable information is lifeblood.
  • Extroverted outreach and public engagement and a highly visible public profile change the social operating environment and create beacons to attract support, opportunities, and likeminded people.
  • In weighing risk versus reward, I give more weight to why do than why don't do.
  • Uncertainty is normal.
  • A risk-averse, zero-defect mentality that seeks certainty is a self-restricting handicap that's not necessary.
  • Push the envelope.
  • At the same time, prepare to mitigate risks and recover.
  • Account for unintended consequences as best I can in my risk analysis.
  • Failures, mistakes, and defeats - if processed tactically - advance the learning curve for victory.
  • OODA and learn.
  • Have a future-time orientation and think ahead to the medium term, long term, and horizon, though horizon plans are inherently fragile.
  • Cost permitting, act to set up future maneuvers even when the near-term benefit is obscure and the future maneuver is only a tenuous possibility.
  • Anticipate and plan ahead.
  • Put out as many fires as I can before they start, because I'll have my hands full with the fires that inevitably flare up.
  • A good enough solution delivered on time is better than an imaginary perfect solution.
  • Do the best I can with what I have to work with.
  • Logistics and cost/benefit analysis.
  • Be creative.
  • Improvise to stretch resources.
  • Where appropriate, design a group action to serve multiple purposes.
  • Don't reinvent the wheel if I don't have to; observe what other groups do effectively and tailor it to our mission.
  • When inventing the wheel is necessary, innovate.
  • Strengthen the organizational base for longevity and growth.
  • Every group action, in addition to its near-term benefit, should produce building blocks for the group and/or the mission.
  • Timely event follow-up is important to invest the production from the event.
  • Productive publicity from an event is more important than a well-attended event.
  • Design photogenic events and take high-quality pictures.
  • Grow the brand and guard the group's public identity.
  • Control the narrative.
  • Constantly network.
  • Gather good people.
  • A good team, well led, in the right structure is greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Group intelligence and capabilities should multiply when combined.
  • Know my teammates and position them to be their most productive.
  • Balance leading from the front with facilitating teammates and accept that facilitating them means equal-or-more personal effort with less personal credit.
  • Give credit where credit is due.
  • Mold a team of aggressive, smart leaders who initiate, take ownership of the mission, and do.
  • Prepare the group to continue mission without me.
  • As best I can, staff my team with people I trust, but also recognize people I don't trust who could be useful.
  • Protect myself and the group from the people I don't trust but use for the mission.
  • Identify the people who play reindeer games and do not help the mission. They are cancers. Do not tolerate them. Neutralize them as soon as possible.
  • If a mission-essential subordinate is doing a bad job, I can try to rehabilitate him, but I will fire him if the problem persists.
  • Organizational structure is a practical constant, so make it as ergonomic as possible.
  • Bureaucracy obstructs when done wrong and facilitates when done right.
  • Be meticulous with the details of management, records, and organization.
  • Set out criteria and goals.
  • At the same time, adapt and be flexible; change and surprise are normal.
  • When shit happens, make it an opportunity.
  • Acting for the good of the group or mission may entail a decision that clashes with a personal belief.
  • Activists seek controlled destruction as a necessary stage of creation.
  • Activist passion is rocket fuel for the mission because it's explosive, so handle with care.
  • When activist destruction succeeds, make sure to follow up with activist creation.
  • Disappointment with the return on investment and frustration are normal.
  • Near-term success does not guarantee long-term success, and the same goes for failure.
  • The disposition of a leadership decision (gamble) may only manifest years later.
  • The most important leadership principle was my answer to 'What are you prepared to do?'.*
*Answer: What was needed, and it was exhausting. Jim Malone's "blood oath" with Elliot Ness in the pew was basically my negotiation with Oscar when he recruited me to be his vice president.

Excerpt from Leaders and Lanes about what I learned about leadership from my high school bowling team:
I learned that leadership comes from within and that a good leader does not set out to win popularity contests. Charm and charisma help, but they are not the main traits required of effective leadership. A leader must be tough, smart and reliable. The job comes first. Friendships come second. Popularity is not a concern. The path of leadership begins with a vision that is followed by sacrifice, endless work, anxiety, and loneliness. Leaders must be responsibility embodied; excuses are reserved for politicians and critics. After high school, the Army tried to teach me about prioritizing "the mission and my men" ahead of myself. It wasn't necessary--I had learned the lesson on the bowling team years earlier.

Our best and worst leaders are revealed in times of adversity, when there are no easy answers and leaders are forced to rely on themselves. That's why our most beloved presidents are associated with our nation's wars. For the same reason, bowling teams are an ideal training ground for leadership. High school bowling differs from football, basketball, baseball, and other sports, which are granted automatic respect. Even winning high school bowling teams are usually stigmatized. A bowling captain must work against the status quo, peer judgment and, most of all, his own insecurities and those of his teammates to shape his bowlers into a proud team.

A good leader sees the dormant possibilities in his surroundings, a skill that I learned as a high school bowler. At first, I accepted the popular image of the bowling team as shameful--until we defeated a highly ranked opponent in the playoffs. I realized then how special the team could be. I saw its hidden potential, and my world changed. From then on, the status quo stopped being the only way and became just one of many options.

During my next three years of high school, I learned some enduring lessons about leadership while I built the bowling team that I envisioned. To my surprise, few of my teammates were as motivated as I was to build the team. I had hoped to share the work equally with them, but I was forced to separate myself from my friends to become the team leader. For the first time in my life, I challenged authority, in the form of my coach, because he was not making the changes I knew were necessary. From the same coach, I learned that hard work and good decisions are not always recognized, and that initiative must be its own reward. . . . The bowling team taught me that a good leader is the difference between success and failure; . . . I have learned that even among the best and brightest, leadership is a rare, valuable and an absolutely necessary trait. I firmly believe now that in everything--this world, this life--good leaders make all the difference.

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