Yesterday I reviewed a couple of articles from Harvard Business Review (November 2010) on “Leadership Lessons from the Military“. Today’s post will finish the job by reviewing the article “Four lessons in Adaptive Leadership” [p86] by Michael Useem from Wharton Business School.
Useem and his colleagues at Wharton have incorporated military leadership principles into the curriculum of their MBA programs. They teach this part via direct engagement of their students with military staff, on military bases. Students are given the opportunity to “engage with top leaders from the armed services, participate in military training exercises, and visit historic battlefields. Most events are brief—one or two days long—but all are intense”.
They take the view that contemporary business leaders need to build a culture of readiness and commitment to embrace uncertainty, which is what the military also set out to achieve with their education programs.
Within that context they offer these lessons to guide leaders in promoting an adaptive culture;
1. Meet the troops
This first lesson is about making a personal connection, either via individual or group gatherings. The key point is that this happens in person.
“look them in the eyes”
A weekly email message, so common in the corporate world, is not a substitute. Nor is group meetings where the leader talks at the staff – this is about making a direct connection.
2. Make decisions
Effective decision making has always been an issue for military leadership, which has given us models such as Boyd’s OODA Loop which is often used for Emergency/Crisis Management education.
The key elements of this lesson are about the need to “Act Fast”. They do not encourage acting without thinking.
“don’t shoot from the hip but don’t wait for perfection”
Or indeed for perfect information!
3. Focus on mission
The concept of mission command is, I think, one important concept we need to adopt for our corporate Crisis Management Teams. This is a focus not on the vague, and often obscure, Corporate Mission Statement – but on the completion of the specific mission each leader is charged to complete.
In doing this they highlight the need to look after your colleagues. How many times have we seen a co-worker make a ‘career limiting move’ and perhaps not acted to stop them. After all, that is one less competitor for the next promotion!
In the military they look at it a little differently – instead of being overlooked for promotion they (and you) may die.
4. Convey strategic intent
When we can clearly convey the strategic (or commander’s) intent we create the space in which others can improvise and adapt to contribute to the ultimate objective.
“Set a direction but don’t micromanage”
How do you create the culture and space that empowers unit/team leaders to adapt in a crisis?
Do you assume that people will adopt a whole new set behaviours when a crisis is declared?
Teaching and mentoring are essential, and the opportunities are constant. As Admiral Thad Allen said;
“You’re always in a teachable moment”