Thursday, September 2, 2010

Leading in Chaos

Here in Afghanistan, not unlike many of the environments in which you operate, everything seems to be difficult. We have too much work and too few people to do it. We lack the resources to be as efficient as we would like. Our contractors struggle to meet schedules and operate within budget. We answer to too many bosses, all of whom have different priorities. Turnover among our employees is incredibly high (3% per week). Movement to project sites is complicated by lack of roads, complex terrain, a ruthless enemy who creates security challenges at every turn, and the logistics of moving around an area of responsibility about half the size of the state of Texas.

Life is hard. There are any number of reasons we use for why we fall behind on our schedules or exceed our budgets. Lots of reasons...but none of them matter. We have to find a way. As leaders, we are challenged to sort through the chaos, bring order to complex situations, identify and resource priorities, and get the mission accomplished. NO MATTER WHAT!!

Do you find yourself in these sorts of situations? This is where we as leaders have to sort through the chaos, we have to bring clarity to the situation. We have to be the ones to maintain calm, to help people sort through the friction of the moment and still accomplish the mission.

I like to remind people (and myself) every day...IN TIMES LIKE THIS...THIS IS WHY THEY NEED US! If everything ran perfectly smoothly, why would they need leaders? If decisions didn't need to be made, if difficult choices among competing demands did not need to be discerned...why would they need us? They could just figure it all out themselves, right?

Well, usually...they can't! And they do need us. Leaders bring order to chaos. Leaders sort through the fog of war and point the team in the right direction. Leaders realize that stuff happens. Always has...and always will. How we are defined, where we add value to the team, is in what we do when the stuff happens. Do we fail in our tasks because of these problems, or do we succeed in spite of them? This is the true measure of our leadership, when we are tested the most, and when we either stand and deliver...or succumb to our enemies.

Whether here in Afghanistan or wherever you serve as a leader, keep reminding yourself...this is why they need us. Problems are not something to complain about, they are opportunities to teach, to grow, to solve problems, to increase communication, and to add value. I love this stuff!!! This is what leaders do. That makes it...Leader Business!

Note: Can I take the chance to thank those of you who have either ordered the Leader Business book or who have forwarded the link to your friends, colleagues, or anyone else who might benefit from a focused examination of the battle-tested principles of leadership. We sold about 150 books in the first two weeks. I'm thankful to have sold one. The gravy! Here is the link should you want to learn more. Thanks to all! Hooah!


Jo Ann said...

We all know that we can’t just throw money at every problem and expect results overnight. Problems just do not fix themselves…it requires great leadership and highly committed and flexible workers like you have. Chaos and constant change are the hallmarks of public service and it appears that the only way to survive is to reshape to the needs of our rapidly changing world. Thanks for all the work you are doing at AED-N. In light of the challenges, you guys are making a difference.

Einar's Blog said...

Since I by chance found your blog I have been reading on a regular basis, and I find it learning and entertaining.

I received my copy of the book the other day this week, and I must admit it's something of the better, if not the best book I have read on leadership, and I have already started to hone my own practices.

So well done