Leadership Lessons from Chaos

As with so many things I see each day, this was brought to my attention via a post on social media: 15 leadership lessons from General Mattis – call sign Chaos. I’m going to list all 15 but only comment on a few. They are the ones that are applicable far beyond military leadership; the ones everyone should read and heed (in my opinion, and most especially if you’re in a leadership position with ANY company). His words are underlined.

If you don’t read, you can’t lead. In other words, if you’re not constantly growing your knowledge base and educating yourself then your leadership skills will be both stagnant and ineffective. I haven’t interviewed the General but I’m willing to bet this is what he meant.

Engage your brain before you engage your weapon. “Weapon” is different in every profession. For some it is an actual firearm, but for others it’s a keyboard. Yes, words can be used as weapons. Psychological warfare is a thing. If you think, for one minute, that your writing isn’t impacting someone’s beliefs or behavior, then why are you writing at all? Engage your brain before you start typing. Make sure it’s filtered through your morals and ethics.

The details you don’t give in your orders are as important as the ones you do. It’s interesting to me that many business executives feel that “controlled information” is vital to the success of their business. As a result, they give directives or share limited information within their organization. Interestingly, any of their employees who have ever done any type of intelligence or investigative work (lots of military and law enforcement fall into that category) will “read between the lines” and know what’s not being shared. The very fact that it’s not being shared doesn’t mean that the leadership is doing anything wrong… but it’s not something that builds trust either. Consider what you hide quite carefully.

We learn most about ourselves when things go wrong. And we grow the most in those same moments. How you react to challenges will come to define you.

Command & Control is for drones; Command & Feedback is for humans. I have yet to meet a successful leader, be it in the military or in business or even in the family unit, who gets better efficiency from people who merely do as they’re told. Businesses thrive and grow on improvisation; new ideas; new developments; people who question the operational directive. Yes, there is a time for soldiers to simply follow orders, but even in the military, the best leaders appreciate those who suggest other options and then report on the effectiveness of new things that have been tried.

Be the hunter, not the hunted: Never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down. In the civilian world, “your unit” is you. Stay alert to your surroundings. This applies 100% across every life.

Demonstrate to the world there is “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy” than a U.S. Marine.

Organizations get the behavior they reward. So, if you’re a business leader, what is your company rewarding? I find it interesting that many corporations reward only growing profit margins without examining how the margins were grown. Were revenues increased? Because if so, that’s good. Was revenue flat but expenses decreased? This CAN be good, but if it becomes the standard operating procedure to protect the profit margin then eventually the company becomes cannibalistic. A minimum level of operating expense is “minimum” for a reason. Below that the company can’t function sufficiently to generate revenue. That puts the company in a downward spiral. Cutting unnecessary expenses is good. Cutting necessary expenses to protect profit margin is bad.

If you can’t build trust, your leadership is obsolete and you need to go home. Managers order and demand obedience. Managers place blame. Managers don’t care about trust. Leaders earn respect. Leaders earn trust. Leaders don’t demand obedience but inspire others to join them on a journey toward a communal goal. Leaders accept responsibility while helping others to improve on identified shortfalls.

Attitudes are caught, not taught. “Lead by example” is a long known phrase for a reason.

Protect your mavericks – otherwise you wash out innovation.

History is clear: nations with allies thrive; those without, whither. It’s the nature of competition on the battlefield, the playing field, or in the market place: the team determines if you win or lose. In every successful marketing model I’ve ever seen, no single person has reached a goal alone. There is always a team and, quite often, they disagree on the best ways to move forward toward the end goal. Discussion and compromise are the tools of a unified team.

We are not a native of divisive tribes. On our coin is written: E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. If you must hyphenate your cultural background, can you make it American-?? Instead of ??-American?

We are the good guys. We’re not the perfect guys, but we are the good guys. No one is perfect but keep your intentions positive, your baser instincts under control and build energy for your karma balance.

American democracy is an experiment, and we must preserve it or it will be destroyed.

 

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