Saturday, April 18, 2009

Take Charge (Part I)

When placed in command – take charge.
-- General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

I have taken command of five units: my first job as platoon leader at Fort Hood, Texas; company command in Nuremberg, Germany; Army Corps of Engineers district command in Detroit and Los Angeles; and the leadership of my training team – the Sidewinders - at the National Training Center. The very act of taking over a new position, no matter how many times I have done so, is a humbling, sweaty-palms experience.

Given that many people are finding themselves in transition with new jobs and new leadership opportunities, I thought it would be appropriate to have a discussion about what it means to take command. I also know that our own President is still in his first 100 days and is working his way through what it means to take command as well. So what better time to start a series on the actions associated with assuming a new leadership position.

In the Army, we assume new leadership positions through a formal ceremony – the change of command. The troops line up neatly on the parade field, each unit led by its respective commander. Beside each commander is the guidon bearer, proudly carrying the unit’s colors that signify its official designation and role within the command.

The ceremony is completed when the higher headquarters commander takes the colors, officially relinquishing the outgoing leader of his responsibilities, and passes them to the incoming commander. This military tradition brings formal closure to the tenure of the old commander and signals the transfer of the burdens of command to the new leader. The new commander has full authority and the immediate loyalty and obedience of his unit.

But what I have learned is that the change of command ceremony is only the beginning. What follows is the hard part – to earn the trust and confidence of my team; to step out and be a leader; to take command of my troops and lead them into battle.

For most of us, a new job, assignment, or position does not come with this level of fanfare. Nor can we likely expect the degree of immediate loyalty that disciplined military units bestow upon a new commander. In most cases the assumption of new duties and responsibilities is hard work and includes a corresponding set of required actions, prior to taking command and once in the new position, that enable one to truly take charge.

Others among us may discover that while already in a leadership position, they have never really taken charge. Perhaps they need a leadership “do over.” Further delay only amplifies the failure to have done so. So I say -- there is no time like the present to take command of your team.

Finally, still others may find themselves thrust into leadership duties which demand immediate action. The time available for deliberation and preparation is minimal – yet the activities involved with taking charge are the same. Grab the bull by the horns and get going.

Would you join me over the next several posts taking a look at what it means to take charge, to take command, to assume the role of a leader? Could you stop for a second and think about your transition into your current position or even that of the President in his first 100 days and whether you (or the Commander in Chief) has effectively taken charge. This series will spend time doing just that and I hope you will join me in this discussion.

You see, I have always found that there are three types of people in leadership positions: those who make things happen; those who let things happen; and those who wonder what happened. The world needs more people who will take charge and make things happen!

When in charge, take charge. And taking charge is…Leader Business!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, leaders don't practive what they preach. Many leaders in today's society are too self-focused and worried about their own personal gains rather than the growth of their subordinates. Most leaders do this while sacraficing morals, ethics, and equal opportunities. Let's face it, disrimination does occur everyday and unless you've been faced with such atrocities, it is nearly impossible to phantom the odds stacked against you.

Many leaders also see threats in up and coming leaders with great potential. Instead of embracing talent, they see talent as a threat to their position, turning a possible nurturing relationship into a egotistical battle. Much too often our leaders lose sight of humbleness in a physiological reaction to protect their own wellbeing.

There are very few sincere leaders willing to mentor someone from the ground up. And the lower a subordinate is on the todempole, the greater the challenge for a leader to undertake. Seeing the undergod defy the odds when you've mentored him/her is a great accomplishment, even more so than a leaders self-accomplishment. Because once you've made it to leadership why not turn around and help the other person up that ladder as well.