Friday, January 25, 2008

Leading from the Front, Part I

Most people have never received formal leadership training. Instead we learn by reading, studying, and from the school of hard knocks. For some in the military, those hard knocks have helped make them successful, and are worthy of sharing with others.

Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch were not born leaders. They became leaders during their years in the US Marine Corps. And because they are women, they were among the elite of the elite, breaking barriers as they led in a field clearly dominated by men.

Drawing on their years as Marine Corps officers and successful private consultants, Morgan and Lynch deliver 10 key practices to becoming a powerful leader. In their book, Leading From The Front, you can improve your decision making, focus, and performance as you learn to:

• Set an inspiring example
• Think fast on your feet
• Stop making excuses
• Take care of your team (so they'll take care of you)
• Respond without overreacting
• Stay cool while dealing with crises
• Have the courage to achieve your goals

While the book targets women leaders, these lessons apply for us all. So I have asked Angie and Courtney to answer some questions on leadership, the first part of which is below. Check out what they have to say. If you are interested, read more about the book here. I read it -- and thought they did a great job. If you know someone who could benefit from these “No Excuse Leadership Tactics,” pick up a copy and put it in their hands…ASAP! These lessons are not just for women. They are what Leader Business is all about. Below is part 1 of my interview with these two great leaders:

Your book is Leading From the Front. You indicate in your book that “Titles don’t define leaders; behavior and attitude make the difference.” What sort of behaviors and attitudes enable leading from the front?

So many people in our society believe that leadership is about a job title, notoriety or prestige. We believe that leaders are the ones who influence outcomes and inspire others. You don’t need a job title to be a leader. You just have to demonstrate leadership behaviors. Leadership is about meeting performance standards, serving as a role model, having emotional resolve, being authentic, accountable and decisive. We wrote our book to share 10 behaviors that men and women can demonstrate in their quest to become stronger, more effective leaders.

You have some great principles about decision-making, especially in crisis mode. What can others learn from your Marine Corps experiences about decision-making?

One of the most important aspects of decision making is knowing when to make a tough call. Many of us fall victim to procrastination, delaying a decision all together. When you fail to make a decision, you live life reactively. You lose out on opportunities and you fail to lead from the front. Leaders need to make decisions to be proactive and to move their lives forward. I think we all can recall a time in our lives when we put off making a choice. Maybe it was when we were trying to plan a family vacation or coordinate a trip somewhere with our friends. By the time we got around to making plans, we discovered that airfare was higher than before, or maybe the hotel was booked up. We missed out on the opportunity. Leaders need to know what decisions they can make today to prepare themselves for the future.

Courtney, in the book you indicated that you had a great mentor when you were a young lieutenant. Are we doing all we should to identify and leverage role models? Where are the good ones?

I had a great Gunnery Sergeant who showed me the ropes. He recognized an opportunity to be a mentor and graciously took the time to guide me through my initial days in the Marine Corps. In fact, he still is a mentor of mine. I have learned to be more proactive in identifying mentors. I choose my mentors by observing successful people who I can learn from, asking them to lunch, and creating an informal relationship from there. I think so many people feel pressure when it comes to identifying mentors, or perhaps being mentors themselves. We all have much a lot to learn from other people and there are many who can benefit from our experiences. They key to mentoring is taking the time and being open to professional relationships.

Thanks Angie and Courtney for your service with the Marine Corps and your continuing passion for leadership and service to others. Part 2 of this interview will follow. And thanks for your insights on what we call Leader Business. Hoorah!

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