Monday, October 12, 2009

Rangers Lead The Way

Many years (and several knee surgeries) ago, I completed Army Ranger training and received the coveted "Ranger Tab." Two months in swamps, mountains, and sandy deserts without food and sleep helped me understand what it took to be able to serve among the military's elite troopers. I learned about survival in difficult conditions and the fundamentals of small unit leadership. We jumped out of perfectly good airplanes (with parachutes), rappelled off mountain cliffs, and made our way through impossible swamps. For two months of misery, I received a 20 cent piece of cloth that I could wear on my uniform -- forever!

Ranger School was a life-changing moment -- not for what I learned about Ranger tactics, but what I learned about...myself. I learned how far I could push myself, how to subordinate personal comfort to mission accomplishment, and the importance of being a good follower. I learned to rely on my fellow Ranger buddies and to similarly be an encouragement to them. I learned the importance of time management, communication, planning, and leadership in crisis. Yep, two months without food and sleep will bring out the best in a man! Ha!

Many leadership studies highlight the importance of an event such as Ranger training to strengthen the resolve of teams and the belief of leaders in themselves and each other. Short of managing actual crisis situations, this sort of training is invaluable for developing the sort of leaders that are capable of addressing difficult situations with a suite of already-tested skills and tools. Ranger training was the sort of "crucible" for me that still gives me confidence in my ability to handle any problem.

So, what are you doing to provide this sort of life-changing event for your "troopers?" Whether through training, leader development programs, or even the pursuit of high risk / high reward opportunities together, it is important to create these "crucibles" for your team. Teammates need to be able to reflect on previous successes ("If we could do that....we can do this") and leverage them against new challenges. The confidence that results is critical. The leadership and the belief in each other is priceless.

The motto of these elite troopers is "Rangers Lead The Way!" I certainly felt that way when I finished my training and put on the tab of the Ranger. (That...and I was really, really hungry!) It was a crucible moment for me. What about you and your troops? That's Leader Business.

If you are interested in more about Ranger School, check out this series of videos. Hooah!

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