Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Petraeus on Leadership II
The Washington Post has a great site for video interviews with key leaders on significant leadership topics. Most recently, the interviews at "On Leadership" have provided some interesting insights from Army General Petraeus. You know him as the 4-star commander of the US Central Command, the author of the "surge" in Iraq, and the leader of the Coalition Military Forces in the Middle East during some very difficult and trying times.
Take a listen to his comments here. In this second interview (see here if you missed the first one), you will be interested to learn of:
-- Sharing risk. All too often we see poor examples of leadership in which all the rewards are reserved for management while all the risks are born by lower ranking members of the team, stockholders, and everyone BUT management. General Petraeus' example of sharing the risk by being out in the field with the troops helps us understand what it means to share both risks and rewards.
-- Keeping up morale. Leaders are always under a microscope, especially when dealing with negative news. How we respond sends a huge message to the troops and sets the tone for their own behavior. The General's comments to be seen as human but don't let them see your shoulders slump reminds us of the importance of inspiring others by being genuine and that perpetual optimism is indeed a "force multiplier!"
-- Empowerment. Providing direction, left/right limits, soliciting feedback, following up. As I like to remind my own troopers, "Empowerment is not abandonment!" I loved the aggressiveness seen in the sign at the company headquarters: "In the absence of guidance or orders, figure out what they should have been and execute aggressively." Leaders must encourage initiative, accept risk, and provide feedback.
-- Communication. The General talks about the importance of being available, of taking personal responsibility for the message. Leaders must be "brutally honest" with the truth. In the most difficult times, often all we have is our credibility. When people trust us, they will accept setbacks and difficult news, knowing that you are not spinning them and will communicate both positive and negative reports.
The General has certainly learned more than his fair share of lessons on leadership -- in his distinguished career and during the very difficult trials of the last 7 years. While he is not likely to take credit for his successes, they are many. His emphasis on leadership -- focused on inspiring excellence and enabling the success of the "troopers" through things like communication and empowerment -- certainly gives us confidence in the mission and those whom he leads. That's Leader Business.
P.S. Kudos to the Iraqi people who continue to demonstrate courage and a desire for freedom and democracy in the face of danger. The elections went forward this week with a turnout that we would love to see in the United States! Proud of the Iraqi people and the US and Iraqi military who enabled the security of the election process!