Michael Useem, in his article, “Four Lessons in Adaptive Leadership,” from the November 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review, writes “A culture of adaptability is vital to survive in the armed forces. As business executives cope with increasing unpredictability, they can take a page from the military’s book.” Useem believes there are four leadership precepts to handling unpredictability, namely the ability to meet the troops, make decisions, focus on mission, and convey strategic intent. While seeming elementary at first glance, from my perspective these foundational leadership skills are more difficult than most people comprehend.
In the beginning, meeting the troops means making a personal link with every employee, individually or in gatherings. These direct connections, e.g. a handshake or a brief look into someone’s eyes, make an indelible impression, “serving to focus attention and ensure retention of the mission and message that a leader seeks to convey.”
Making good and timely decisions is “the crux of responsibility in a leadership position.” As Useem writes, “The ability to make fast and effective decisions that draw quickly upon the insights of all those on the front lines is among the defining qualities of combat-ready leadership. It is encoded in a Marine dictum: When you’re 70% ready and have 70% consensus, act. Don’t shoot from the hip, but also don’t wait for perfection. Of course, the 70% is not a strict metric but, rather, a metaphor for the need to balance deliberation and action.” The key is to learn how to make good and timely decisions under ambiguous conditions.
Everyone knows that establishing a common purpose is vital to organizational success. However, making the mission your company’s top priority is not that easy. Operational challenges often trump mission and strategy. Helping leaders comprehend and put into action the mission is a constant struggle.
Finally, Useem notes that making the objectives clear, i.e. conveying strategic intent, requires us to avoid micromanaging those will execute the objectives. As he writes, “Conveying strategic intent is one of the skills essential to aligning people across an organization to reach a common goal - and leaders must them rely on the people’s ingenuity for getting there.”
While warfare and business are vastly different, ambiguity and unpredictability is not. Developing a culture that succeeds in spite of unprecedented uncertainty is a key foundational leadership skill set moving forward.
One way to learn the above skills sets is to enroll in the 2012 From Vision to Action Leadership Training. This in-depth training meets once a quarter in 2012 and covers the topics of leadership, strategic planning and execution, and organizational change. For more information about this unique training opportunity and how to register, please click on the following link: http://www.chartyourpath.com/VTA-Leadership-Training.html.
Uncertainty, ambiguity and unpredictability will be a major part of our future for many years to come. Being prepared can generate improved leadership capacity which will translate into a culture of readiness and commitment. I look forward to your participation in the 2012 From Vision to Action Leadership Training.
Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257