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Are Your Leaders Ready to Take Charge?

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On D-Day, 6 June 1944, General Eisenhower was confident that his soldiers and subordinate leaders were well-trained and ready to accomplish their mission.  Leadership is just as important today as is was during World War II.  This holds true for any organization whether it is a military unit or a commercial enterprise.  With 76 million baby boomers getting ready to retire next year, 2011, many CEOs are being asked:  “Are Your Leaders Ready to Take Charge?”  Unfortunately in most cases, the answer is that they are not.  This is a pending leadership crisis.  Learn more about what can be done by reading my latest magazine article:  Are Your Leaders Ready to Take Charge?

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July 13th, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Leadership Vision – Easy as 1, 2, 3

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The requirement for having a clear vision of the future is generally recognized as a universal element of effective leadership. Without a clear vision of the future it is impossible for the leader to know where he or she is going, much less convincing their team to follow them. Followers expect that their leaders will not only have a clear vision, but that they communicate it to them before they are willing to embark with them on a risky journey into the future. So how does a leader establish a vision of for the future? It may be as simple as one, two, three.

While nothing is ever as easy as it sounds, a concept can be elegantly simple even though it takes a skilled performance to make it look easy. Such is the case of defining a leader’s vision in three simple steps:

Step 1:  Describe your current state. This step requires that you are brutally honest about the current state of affairs for you and your organization, even if things are not very rosy.  You need to be honest about your people, resources, problems, strengths and weaknesses.  You will also need to assess your operating environment both internally and externally.  Once you have an accurate current appraisal of your situation, then you can move ahead to the next step.

Step 2:  Describe your future state. This should be a more pleasant part of the exercise because you are generally describing a more hopeful future for your organization and your people.  It is the time to think about your goals and outcomes.  What would things be like if you could wave your magic wand to shape your organization in the future?  Be sure to get into details just as you did in the first step, but don’t feel constrained by the current state of affairs.

Step 3:  Define “close-the-gap” strategies. Now you will need to think creatively.  Answer the basic question:  “How do you intend to get from point A to point B, from the current to the future state?”  You may have several strategies, but you should tie them together under a “grand strategy” or a concept.  The supporting strategies can define more specific approaches to certain aspects of your concept.  Individual strategies can be further refined into tactics.  These are more discreet steps to take for the immediate future.  One aspect of your strategic approach may be to gather the right resources and capabilities.  These are usually defined in two broad categories:  people and resources.  Getting the right people on board who have the right skills is often one of the first steps that a leader must take to move ahead.  This cuts to the core of the leadership challenge.  Although leaders have the overall responsibility for the success of their organization, they need to have the right team of people around them to make sure that everything that needs to get done actually does get done.  Picking the right people is a key leadership responsibility.  Likewise, making sure that the people have the necessary resources is also a key leader responsibility.  These are often some of the first “close-the-gap” strategies, but the basic requirement in this step is to articulate the strategies and actions necessary to guide the team into the future.

So this is a simple, three-step process for defining the leader’s vision:  1) describe the current state, 2) describe the future state, and 3) define the close-the-gap strategies. The process can be more complex or take more time depending on the individual situation.  Some leader’s find themselves in dire circumstances and don’t have the luxury of time to get lots of input to forge ahead.  If this is the case, a leader may make a personal reconnaissance of the situation and get input from just a few key people before deciding what to do.  In other circumstances, a leader might have more time because things don’t seem so desperate.  In these cases leaders will often bring more people into the discussions over an extended period of time.  For example, the leader might even designate several teams of people, one for each of the steps.  This could be the same people or a mix of different people who are hand-picked by the leader for their expertise in a particular aspect of the discussion.  How this gets done will be determined in part by the leadership style of the leader.  Nevertheless, these are all just variations of the same, simple three step process.  So if you become the leader of an organization or team, think about using this three step process to come up with your vision.  It could be as easy as one, two, three.  Best wishes in seeing your future success!

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COL. Leonard Kloeber, Jr.  Author

COL. Leonard Kloeber, Jr. Author

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February 3rd, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Great Leadership Depends on Great Decisions – Take AIME

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All great leaders are defined by the quality of their decisions. Although leaders can delegate, postpone, or otherwise defer decisions, ultimately there are some things that only the leader can decide. As President Harry Truman famously said, “the buck stops here.” He realized that ultimately, he needed to take responsibility and make decisions on the critical issues facing the nation. Likewise, leaders of any organization must also make key decisions and take the responsibility for their outcomes. This philosophy may sound simple, but it doesn’t mean that it is easy. Often leaders must make decisions with scant information.  More often than not, there are no clear cut choices among several viable options, and the leader gets conflicting advice about which option to choose. So how can leaders make timely decisions and maximize their chances of making the “right” decision? They rely on a decision making model to help them. Consider the example of the AIME decision making model:

A: Assess the Situation. Whenever they are faced with a decision, leaders assess the situation. This can either be a quick “estimate of the situation” or a more detailed analysis depending on the amount of time available. Regardless, they always assess the situation by considering relevant facts that bear on the problem. Experienced leaders will know intuitively which facts to look at and quickly assess the situation. Experienced emergency room doctors do this all the time. While they seem to easily make quick decisions, in fact, they begin by assessing the patient’s condition by looking at the appropriate vital signs or test results. The reason that they can move quickly to a decision is because of their experience – they have likely seen a similar situation before that they can relate to their present situation.   Less experienced leaders (or doctors) will need to get help from trusted colleagues to make their assessment; nevertheless, they must begin the process by looking at the relevant facts.

I: Implement a simple plan. After gathering information to make their decision, the next move is to formulate a simple plan. To create their plan, they will likely consider their viable options. Normally there are no more than five options.   If there are more than five, it behooves the leader to quickly eliminate all but the most viable and get to the three best options. Once the options are identified, they compare the advantages and disadvantages of each of the options. If time permits, they sometimes do a deliberate analysis using a decision matrix whereby each option is evaluated against specific “decision criteria.”   They might have someone from their staff research the details for each option and present their findings in the form of a comparative analysis which may point to one option that is clearly superior to the others. However once the analysis is completed with whatever detail is permitted due to the time constraints, the leader must choose an option and make their decision.

M: Make it happen. Once the decision is made, then the leader must communicate it to the staff and make it happen. Many leaders assume that once the decision is made and communicated that it is carried out. Don’t assume that once the communication is made, that the decision will automatically get carried out! Even in military organizations where people are accustomed to follow orders, the decisions of senior commanders will not always be carried out as intended. It is up to the senior leader or decision maker to follow up with those who are charged with implementing the decision to see if it is being implemented as intended or if there is an unanticipated problem. This is the time for leaders to “lead from the front.”   Get up front and find the problems and fix them, or fire up the people who are supposed to get the job done. Unless you are prepared to rescind or modify the decision, make sure that everyone is on board with getting it implemented. In extreme cases, this might even require firing recalcitrant team members who are obstructing rather than facilitating the decision.

E: Evaluate the decision. This is the last, but most often overlooked step in decision making. Even when leaders follow up to make sure that their decisions are carried out, they often don’t come back later to evaluate the results. Evaluation is really the key to making great decisions. Most leaders understand that they can never make great decisions all the time. Even great leaders will make a poor decision periodically, but the only way to correct that is to evaluate the results. The fact is that even a successful missile launch is off target most of the time. It is up to the guidance system to make mid-course corrections while the missile is in flight so that it gets to the intended target. In the same way, leaders have the ability to achieve their intended results by making periodic reviews of their decisions. Depending on the nature of the decision, the elapsed time before a review may vary widely; however, if everyone knows that there will be a review, they will more diligently carry it out in the first place. Further, they will be looking for signs along the way that will help to make the evaluation more effective. So, make sure to set up a time to evaluate your decisions if you are the leader.

The AIME Decision Model is a simple model to understand, but perhaps not easy to execute in practice; however, using it regularly will instill discipline into the decision making process. This will not guarantee great decisions every time, but it will dramatically increase the probability of making good decisions over the long term. As you get used to applying the model, then it will naturally become easier to use. Make a good decision today and start using the AIME Decision Model.

Leonard Kloeber is an author and consultant. He retired from the US Army Reserves as a Colonel after more than thirty years of service. He also has extensive business experience of over twenty-five years as a hands on leader in a variety of businesses large and small. Most recently he was a human resources executive for a Fortune 100 company. His book – Victory Principles, Leadership Lessons from D-Day – illustrates seven bedrock leadership principles that all successful leaders use. Find out more at: http://www.victoryprinciples.com where you can a download free summary of the Victory Principles. Contact him at info@victoryprinciples.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Leonard_Kloeber


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September 30th, 2009 at 6:37 pm

What are the Victory Principles?

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Vision: A compelling vision of the future is the key to successful leadership. Leaders must convince their followers that they can take them to a better place. The vision provides hope for a better tomorrow and a roadmap on how to get there.

Innovation and Learning: Leaders encourage innovation and learning within their organizations. They learn and adapt. The experiment and encourage others to do the same. They support risking and do not punish failure for taking prudent risks. The periodically evaluate operations to share lessons learned using After Action Reviews (AARs).

Capabilities – People and Resources: It is the leader’s job to recruit the right people and gather the necessary resources for success. Every successful organization needs qualified people and the necessary tools to accomplish the mission. Leaders are the chief talent scouts for their organization.

Timely Decisions: Leaders must make timely decisions to move their organizations forward. Successful leaders often use a decision making model like the AIME model: Assess the situation; Implement a simple plan; Make it happen; Evaluate.

Organizational Values and Operating Principles: Leaders ground their organization with common values and operating principles. These serve as guideposts for people to act when necessary and make appropriate decisions. Operating principles and values define the culture of an organization.

Resilience: All successful leaders and their organizations demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity. The path to success is never easy and there are always obstacles along the way. Leaders carry the organization forward in the face of adversity, accomplish their mission, and achieve success.

Your Team: As a leader, you are responsible for everything your team does or fails to do. Leaders take care of their people. They make sure that they are trained to work together. They ensure that everyone knows their job, the team’s mission, and what is expected. Leaders hold people accountable.

A free one-page version of the VICTORY PRINCIPLES may be downloaded from the link at the bonus section in the column to the right.  Download your FREE copy of VICTORY-PRINCIPLES-AT-A-GLANCE right now!  Also remember to email this to someone you know who is either a leader or an aspiring leader using the share button below.

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September 15th, 2009 at 10:24 am

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The Normandy Campaign Draws to an End

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Sixty-five years ago this month, the Normandy Campaign was coming to an end after almost ninety days of brutal combat between the Allied armies and the German Wehrmacht.  It began on June 6th, D-Day when British and American paratroopers jumped into the Cotiten Peninsula to secure key terrain and disrupt the Germans in advance of the assault divisions that landed on five beaches stretching for fifty miles along the coast of Northern France.  Their mission was to secure a lodgement, destroy the German forces, and liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny.  Although there was bitter fighting right from the start of the invasion, it only grew more intense over the next few months as they fought in the Bocage of the peninsula which was a patchwork of hedgerows.  The hedgerows provided a natural defensive position from which the Germans could effectively blunt any Allied advance, and they successfully used machine guns and artillery to great advantage.    Despite the Allied advantage in air power and naval gunfire , the Germans put up a stiff resistance.  Their army was well trained, had combat experience, and many units, specifically the SS, were fanatical fighters who were dedicated to the Nazi regime.

Over the next few months, Allied commanders launched a series of attacks and utilized their superior air and naval forces to prepare the advance.  Tragically, there were many occasions where incidents of friendly fire took place as bombs fell short of their intended targets, and Allied soldiers were killed or wounded even before the operations commenced.  Yet they remained fixed on their mission, and demonstrated resilience to continue to pursue the Germans relentlessly.  Resilience was crucial to the success for the Allies.  It is the simple quality of an organization or individuals to overcome setbacks, and spring back  so they can move ahead towards their intended objectives.  Time after time, Allied soldiers and their commanders were able to overcome significant losses and rebound in spite of them.

As the weeks past, the Allies continued to bring more men and equipment into the fight while the Germans could not replace their losses.   Among the German losses were some senior commanders, include Field Marshal Rommel.  He was seriously injured when his staff car was attacked by an Allied fighter plane while he was traveling to visit the units at the front lines of the battle. Visiting the front at the crucial points was his custom and one of the reasons why he was one of the most effective German commanders.  As the German losses mounted, their ability to counter attack was diminished.  Nevertheless, Hitler demanded more aggressive action from the safety of his headquarters in East Prussia.  In frustration, Hitler replaced his Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal von Rundstedt, with Field Marshall von Kluge.  When he arrived in Normandy, Kluge originally thought that the biggest problem for the Germans was a lack of leadership, but as he visited the front lines, he too quickly realized that the German army simply was not able to withstand the onslaught without more replacements and support.   On July 20th, an attempt was made on Hitler’s life when a bomb was set off in his bunker in East Prussia, but he sustained only minor injuries.  Although his injuries were only minor, he was ruthless in pursuing the perpetrators which included a number of regular army officers.  Kluge was concerned about being implicated in the plot, so when Hitler ordered a major counter attack against the Americans from the German left flank, Kluge reluctantly carried out the order even though he knew it was the wrong strategy from purely a military standpoint.  This attack at Mortain only played into the Allied plan as it was held in check while the newly activated American Third Army under General Patton broke out of the hedgerow country with his armored and mechanized formations to envelop the flank of the German Army.  Within a matter of days, the German attack was completely contained, and the Americans were able to advance almost unopposed into the German rear areas.

Third Army Break-out

Third Army Break-out

Patton drove his troops relentlessly to continue their attack so that the Germans would not have time to recover.   This was exactly the right strategy.  He exploited success and when necessary even by-passed pockets of resistance to keep up the momentum.  By mid-August many of the German units were depleted and beginning to break down under the stress of constant combat.  After encircling most of the German Army, the Americans and British attempted to complete the encirclement at Falaise.  The Canadians and Poles were attacking from the north towards Falaise while Patton’s Americans and the French 2nd Armored Division were attacking north intending to meet up with them.  After reaching Argentan, Patton was ordered to stop his advance to avoid a friendly fire incident with the Canadians and Poles; however, the Canadians and Poles had run into determined resistance from SS Panzer units that were trying to keep the Gap open so that others could escape east across the Seine River to fight another day.  In this, they were successful for awhile, but eventually the gap was closed and the Allied air forces relentlessly attacked any Germans on the road moving east.  By the end of August, the remaining Germans who were not killed inside the “Falise Pocket” surrendered to the Allies.  Knowing that he would be blamed for the defeat, Kluge took his life with a cyinad pill.  Meanwhile, the German commander in Paris defied Hitler’s orders to destroy the city and defend it to the last man.  He declared it an “open city” and so it was fortunately spared the fate of many of the smaller villages and cites in Normandy that were ruined during the preceding weeks of brutal combat.  The Free French Forces under the command of General LeClerc were given the honor to be the first Allied troops to enter Paris.

With the liberation of Paris, the Normandy campaign was officially over, but price in terms of casualties and destruction of property had been great.  Not just for the armies, but also for the many French civilians who were killed, wounded, or displaced from their homes that were destroyed.   Almost 20,000 were killed and many more wounded.  Cities like Caen and St. Lo were reduced to a pile of rubble.  Many other towns were partially runied as the Germans and the Allies traded artillery barges, or when Allied bombers dropped their payloads in advance of the attack.  In the process of liberating the Continent, much of it was destroyed.  It is significant the the Free French Forces joined the Allied effort with the full knowledge that their country would suffer so much in the process.  Following the Normandy Campaign, there would still be months of bitter fighting all through the winter of 1944-45.  The Allied Supreme Commander, General Eisenhower, would be challenged not only by the Germans, but also by the infighting among the Allied commanders.  However, he successfully led the coalition to complete his mission that he started on June 6th when the Germans finally surrendered unconditionally in May 1945.  So, as Prime Minister Churchill aptly stated, although Normandy was not the end, perhaps it was the beginning of the end.

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August 15th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Learn from History: Innovation Leads to Success

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War is one of the most tragic of all human endeavors when measured in loss of life and property, suffering of all the participants, and the cost of rebuilding after the final shot has been fired. In spite of the horrific consequences of war, it illustrates that even under the harshest of circumstances, innovation and learning are critical to survival and also essential ingredients to success. Students of history will understand that successful military operations have been the result of “learning on the fly.” Successful armies learn how to defeat the enemy by adapting to their tactics, by innovating new tactical solutions of their own, and by finding new ways to use the resources available. These same concepts of learning apply to success in business by adapting your competitor’s tactics and leveraging your own resources in the marketplace. While the analogy of war and business is not perfect, it does offer some valuable insights. Let’s look at the Normandy campaign in World War II as an example.

After the Allied armies had established a beachhead on the Normandy coast of France following the D-Day invasion on June 6th 1944, the fighting became protracted and intense in the Norman hedgerows. Many of the objectives that were expected to be achieved in the first few days were not actually realized until a month or more into the campaign as the fighting bogged down in the “Bocage” country. This was where farmers had raised their cattle and grown crops since before Norman the Conqueror had left the same area to sail across the English Channel almost 1000 years before. Over the centuries they had built natural fences from mounds of dirt where they planted shrubs and trees to form barriers of dense vegetation to separate their fields. These are known as hedgerows. Usually the hedgerows surrounded a field and only had a small opening from which you could enter the enclosed area. Hedgerows provided the Germans with natural defensive positions from which to defend against the advancing Allied armies. By strategically emplacing machine guns that targeted the entrances to these fields and also using pre-arranged artillery and mortar fire, they could easily slow down an Allied advance and inflict many casualties. Even tanks were vulnerable to attack when they penetrated the hedgerows through the natural openings and were hit by anti-tank weapons and artillery.

Modified Sherman Tank

Modified Sherman Tank

Then one day, Sergeant Curtis G. Culin of the American 102nd Cavalry, 2nd Armored Division decided that if he could weld some steel prongs on his tank, then he could literally plow through a hedgerow at an unexpected place quickly and avoid the pre-sited German fire. It worked! General Omar Bradley, then in command of the American army, ordered this adaptation be made to tanks in other units too. Ironically they were able to use the same steel girders that the Germans had used for beach obstacles as a source for the metal needed to modify the tanks. Thereafter, the Allied armies were able to more easily attack into the hedgerows with fewer casualties. This innovation and learning under fire saved American lives and contributed to the eventual defeat of the German army in Normandy. It is but one good example of how “learning on the fly” can lead to success, even where the concept is quiet simple and maybe even obvious once it is implemented.

This same concept of learning and innovation can also be applied to business. One of the industries that has thrived on innovation and learning to improve products and services is the fast food industry. Competitors in this industry constantly look for ways to do things easier, faster, and more reliably. You can find examples at McDonalds where they have used innovations over the years to cook their French Fries and hamburgers uniformly or make milk shakes quickly, or at Taco Bell where they have perfected the art of making a taco or enchilada. They have done this by designing kitchen equipment that is almost foolproof and produces similar results each time, even where their workers may have limited experience. Often these innovations come from their franchisees who have learned lessons the hard way and not from the corporate headquarters. So it is important for leaders to be alert and listening to those on the front lines, just as General Bradley listened to Sergeant Culin sixty five years ago.

Make learning and innovation a part of your organization. Experiment. Take small risks. Try new approaches. Small successes and innovations when taken together can have a huge impact on the bottom line and your overall results. If you are a leader, encourage this kind of behavior and make it a part of the organizational culture. Be careful not to stifle this activity by punishing failure. Often the experiments may not work, but when they do, the can have a big payoff. If you punish people who try and fail, word will get around quickly. Others will choose to play it safe and not look for ways to improve. So if you want to encourage innovation you need to positively encourage your people even when they fall short. Obviously, you should also celebrate success when someone tries and succeeds. Public recognition will also get the message across that you want to look for ways to improve. So start by looking for the small wins, and then build from there. Make innovation and learning a part of your success.

Written by editor

July 30th, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Winston Churchill, Wartime Leader

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Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II, demonstrated great leadership not only for Britain, but for the Allies overall.  He was the right man for the moment, and brought great energy and experience to the job.  He demonstrated personal courage, inspired his countrymen, and was decisive when crucial decisions were needed.  His legacy still remains as one of the great leaders of the 20th century.

Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, WWII

Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, WWII

Winston Churchill had an interesting and rich experience well before he became the Prime Minister.  He was born into an aristocratic English family in the late 19th century and although he was provided the opportunity to attend fine schools, he was not a good student.  Ironically, he also had somewhat of a speech impediment.  Both of these shortcomings are now mostly forgotten since he later became a prolific writer and a world renowned orator.  Eventually, he matriculated at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and was commissioned as a cavalry officer in the British Army when he graduated in 1984 near the top of his class.  After graduation he saw war up close and personal either as a military observer or as a war correspondent in places like Cuba, India, Sudan, and South Africa.  He began is political career as an elected Member of Parliament in 1900, and during the First World War he also served briefly as a battalion commander in the rank of lieutenant colonel in France.  He also held a series of important political posts in the government that broadened his experience, especially within the defense establishment.  In the years after the armistice that ended WWI, his political fortunes waned while he championed various defense initiatives for tanks, aircraft, and ships as a means to offset the growing power of the German Reich.  Although these positions were not popular, they catapulted him into power when Germany invaded Poland in 1939.  He replaced Prime Minister Chamberlain who had attempted negotiations with Hitler and then lost favor as German aggression continued.  Ironically, Churchill became the Prime Minister on May 10th 1940, the same day that the German Army started the blitzkrieg on the Western Front.  Now he was able to draw on his decades of experience to lead his nation in a time of war.

After the Germans had overrun the Low Countries and France, it was the British Empire that virtually stood alone against the German war machine.  At a time when it would have been easier to seek accommodation with Hitler, Churchill used his great oratory skills and personal courage to muster the strength of British people to prepare for a long and difficult struggle.  Despite the losses of the British Army and much of  its equipment at Dunkirk, Churchill rallied his nation.  He exhorted his countrymen to fight and prevail in the subsequent air battles known as the Battle of Britain even while English cities and towns were bombed by Germans.  The Royal Air Force fought valiently even as it sustained terrible losses of fighter aircraft and pilots while fending off the onslaught.  His courageous stance as a leader provided a vision and hope that Britain could prevail over the tyranny and aggression of the German Reich.

After the Americans entered the war following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Prime Minister quickly sought to partner with President Roosevelt to craft a strategy for the way forward.  He realistically assessed the situation at the time and correctly evaluated the Allies’ limited capabilities to undertake offensive operations directly against Germany.  Although the American military leaders favored an early cross Channel attack, Churchill instead, convinced the President to support a more indirect approach by invading North Africa so that the Allies built up their forces and gained combat experience working together.  This was a significant decision that was informed by his deep experience both as a military and political leader.  He then tirelessly worked to make sure that the right people were picked for key leadership positions and that they had what they needed to succeed in their mission.  Once the Allied forces and leaders had succeeded and gained experience working together, the later then concurred with the Americans to launch the cross Channel attack in 1944.

As with all great leaders, Churchill was a man of vision.  He demonstrated personal courage and exercised good judgment on the crucial decisions that were made based on his deep experience from having served in a variety of jobs over the years.  His willingness to take risks and use his great oratory skills to communicate and persuade others was instrumental in moving the Allied war effort forward.  Without his strong leadership during the war, the history of the second half of the Twentieth Century could have been written quite differently.

For more information follow this link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Churchill

Written by editor

July 16th, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Seven Bedrock Leadership Principles Used by all Successful Leaders

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There are seven bedrock leadership principles that all leaders use.  These are principles and not prescriptions.  Hence, leaders must tailor the application of the principles to their unique organization and in their own way.  Despite their unique application, these principles are the underpinnings of all successful leadership endeavors.  Here are the common treads of successful leadership:

1.      Vision: All great leaders have an inspiring vision of the future which provides direction and hope for a better day.  They are effective at communicating and building support for their vision to get everyone in their organization on board.  Effective leaders usually enlist the support of key followers to help craft their vision.  This builds trust and confidence, and also leverages the unique talents and perspectives of others within the organization.

2.      Innovation and Learning: Leaders are always looking for better ways to accomplish their objectives and they encourage people to experiment with new approaches and learn from them.  Sometimes the innovations don’t work out as planned, but good leaders will encourage their people to quickly learn from the experience and move on to try another approach.  When they find an approach that works, they quickly move to exploit their success. They avoid placing blame for failure and share the glory for success with the team.

3.      Capabilities – People and Resources: All great leaders are looking for people with the right skills to have on their team; they also know that even the best people must have the right resources to be successful.  Leaders take it upon themselves to obtain the right people and the right resources for their team.  They are the lead talent scouts and take on the responsibility to find whatever is needed to get the job done.

4.      Timely Decisions: Leaders make timely decisions so their organization can move forward.  Furthermore they have a disciplined approach to decision making that often involves the use of a decision making model.  They know that they will not always make the right decision, but by having a disciplined approach to decision making that they can increase their odds of success.  They also periodically review their decisions and make appropriate course corrections to move towards their goals.

5.      Operating Principles and Values: Great leaders know that the best way to influence their organization is through the use of operating principles and values.   Operating Principles and Values establish a framework for behavior within the organization and allow people to act in concert with the positive cultural norms.  This is how leaders empower others in the organization to take action when needed without resorting to command and control style leadership by giving orders from the top.

6.      Resilience: Leaders know that the path to success is not a straight line.   There are always obstacles along the way that must be overcome.  The skill of overcoming obstacles and pushing through resistance is called resilience.  Leaders themselves must be resilient to overcome setbacks, and they must instill this quality in their people and the organization as a whole.  The best way to do this is by example.  In times of crisis, people will look to the leader to see how they behave.  If the leader maintains their cool under fire, and pushes ahead, others will follow.  This is the principle of resilience in action.

7.      Your Team: Leaders put their team first.  They make sure that every team member knows what is expected of them; that they are trained to do their job; and that they are taken care of as individuals.  Leaders who take good care of their people know that the people will take care of them when the chips are down because they have earned their trust.  Great leaders “lead from the front.”  They go where the action is to be with their team so that they have a deep understanding of what the real issues are that their people are dealing with on a daily basis.  This creates trust, provides critical information for the leader upon which they can base their decisions, and demonstrates genuine concern for the people and the organization.

Applying these principles will not guarantee your success; however, if you fail to use them, you will not be an effective leader.  All great leaders use these principles, but also use their own leadership style to implement them.  If you observe great leaders in action, you will find them using these principles to lead their organizations to success.

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June 26th, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Learn from History: Leadership requires a vision

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Sixty-Five years ago, Allied armies under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower stormed the beaches at Normandy to liberate Europe and end World War II. This was and still remains one of the most complex military operations ever undertaken. It was planned and executed without the help of modern communications and computers that we now take for granted. So what can we learn from these historical events of over a half century ago that could help us today? Leadership.

The successful Allied invasion was the result of superior leadership starting with General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander, and continued all the way down to the sergeants and junior officers that led the troops into battle. While the Germans also had some good individual leaders like Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, as a group, the did not share the same vision on how they would defend the beaches. Thus, what started as a foothold on the continent by the Allies grew into a major assault that could not be contained. The leadership provided by General Eisenhower and his subordinates became a major factor as the Allies fought together as a team. The Allies were able to eventually land enough troops and supplies while the Germans could not replace their losses. After some very difficult fighting, the American Third Army under the leadership of General Patton broke through the German lines. Once the breakout occurred the Germans were about to be surrounded. Those that could escape to fight another day retreated while the vast majority were either casualties or became prisoners of war.

The same principles of leadership used by the Allied commanders are universal leadership principles that can applied even today. Given the complex challenges facing the country, it will be excellent leadership that carries us forward to a better day, just as it did sixty-five years ago.

Today more than ever, strong leadership is required to solve the major challenges facing our country and the world. Business leaders need to provide strong leadership to their organizations in a weak economy. Others need to solve major problems on energy, health care, and global warming. Although these historic leadership lessons were forged in the heat of a desperate battle on D-Day, the common element that still remains is human nature. Leadership is the skill that gets things done, solves problems and moves us to a better day. We need effective leaders at all levels and in a cross section of business, non-profit, as well as government enterprises. Thus, the same principles that were used by Allied leaders to achieve victory then, can be used today to lead us forward.

A good example of a leadership principle in action is the concept of “vision.” General Eisenhower provided a vision of his plan for a successful invasion. The plan was known as Operation Overlord. All leaders must have a compelling vision of the future. This defines where they want to go and provides their followers an element of hope of success for the future. Although this is a simple, and perhaps obvious component of good leadership, it is easier said than done. Crafting a compelling vision requires a leader to have a deep understanding of his or her operating environment, the capabilities and limitations of their organization, and a clear understanding of their strategy for moving ahead. Good leaders involve their people to help them develop their vision. This creates organizational buy-in and builds support within the organization. Thus, vision is a fundamental component of good leadership. If you plan to be a successful leader, learn from history and make sure that you have a compelling vision to inspire your followers.

Written by editor

May 23rd, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Why is leadership so important today?

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Why is leadership so important today?  This may seem like an obvious question when America is faced with significant challenges at home and abroad; however, in times of crisis, strong leadership is the decisive factor in driving the changes that are needed to get us to a better day.  In military terms, strong leadership is recognized as a “force multiplier” and can influence the outcome of the battle.  On the economy, international issues, and a host of domestic policies ranging from health care, education, and energy America needs strong leadership.  We need strong leadership not just at the top, but at every level.  We need leaders to step forward with creative ideas and new approaches.  Throughout our history, America has been fortunate to have leaders step forward to deal with formidable problems, just as the men and women of the “Greatest Generation” stepped forward to deal with the challenges of the Great Depression and World War II.  It was strong leadership then that got us through those tough challenges, and it will be a new generation of leaders today who will solve our nation’s current problems.  These new leaders can learn from history and apply bedrock leadership principles that will make a difference.  These are the principles that I call the “VICTORY Principles.” 

The word “VICTORY” is actually a simple way to remember each of these principles.  Each letter stands for one of the principles.  Future posts will describe each of these principles in more detail.  Check back and learn more about each of the principles and how you can apply them in your own leadership journey.

Written by editor

May 6th, 2009 at 7:35 am