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Successful Leader: What the Army Taught Me

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May 29, 2017
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Being a successful leader is crucial in the Military; growing a strong team that can act autonomously is invaluable - not just in life or death situations, but in accomplishing any mission. The business world is a much safer place, but learned lessons from the military can be just as applicable. Here are the 3 things you must do to build a successful team:

1.) Give a clear and quantifiable goal.

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If you don't know where you're going, you can't get there.[/caption]Wanting to travel more is not a goal. You want to travel to the beach… more specific, but still not a goal. However, if you want to go spend 6 days on the beaches of Key West Florida by the 1st of August this year, that’s a goal that can be accomplished. Though the last statement does accomplish the goals of the previous two, it is clear and quantifiable; which makes it easier to understand how to get it done.Let’s say you're on a land navigation course, you have a map and a compass. Your Lieutenant tells you to go somewhere and train. Neither of those commands are clear or quantifiable. But if he told you that you need to be at GRID 5234 9923 by 1700 hours and conduct Battle Drill 1 Alpha at that location, you know exactly what to do to be successful. Remember, what can be measured, can be done.

2.) Provide assets to accomplish the goal

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It's your job as a leader to support and foster the growth of your team with the tools and assets that they need. (Source: DVIDS)[/caption]It is your job as a leader to ensure that your men and women have the tools and training to accomplish that goal AND understand what those tools are. Your team will be successful because they have the right person in charge (that’s your asset if you’re the leader) and the confidence to accomplish the clear mission in front of them. Let’s say that you’re back at the land navigation course. Your Lieutenant walks up to you and says get to grid 5234 9923 by 1700s and conduct Battle Drill 1 Alpha with the entire rifle squad. For you to be successful and meet his orders you must:

  1. Ensure that you’re properly trained in land navigation and trained in battle drills
  2. Have the tools to navigate and train (map, compass, weapons, etc.)
  3. Have the personnel appropriate for the mission

If any of these are not available, the leader has failed to provide you with the appropriate assets to be successful. Remember though, just like in the military, you must improvise or do less with more. Just because your tools aren’t the greatest, or the most advanced, doesn’t mean you can’t be effective. Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you can’t get it done.

3.) Get out of the way!

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Let your team get their hands dirty. Let them impress you.[/caption]This is the one that is most forgotten or even a lot of leaders are unaware. If you’ve ever been micromanaged by a leader before you know how ineffective and frustrating that management style can be. Back at the land navigation course, imagine if you had to tell each of your leaders which exact points to hit, how to hit them, what tools to use, etc. If this is the case, all this is telling the world is that the Lieutenant did not prepare his team to be successful or he grossly does not trust them. In business, speed equals success. Just like in the Military, to win you must be faster and more accurate than your opponent. To do this, your teams must think for themselves and overcome their own problems, some of which may be inevitable. Once you build the team, you must trust them to adapt accordingly and complete the mission. So… get out of their way. You set the objective, you gave them the assets, now let them impress you.You cannot micromanage someone to success but you can get out of their way and let them succeed.

“Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”

-George S. Patton

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