What Business Leaders Can Learn from Today's Military
Hello i'm catherine down from harvard business dot org in here came with colonel com call that far faster and had if the department if i have your own scientific leadership at the u. s. military academy that's great. Just messed me kentucky n ecstatic leadership leading if your life depended on it kind on called it's it's a contributor to fight like later set harvard business dot org new block at that point lead i think that that can learn from taste military. Thank you for being with us today tom you're welcome because i like it back i talking a little bit about. That research you get for your buck an extended slater set you interviewed leaders have variety of life threatening occupations including now ok. What did you find it that's leaders had in common catherine the first characteristic of these leaders showed was confidence and foreign away are research in iraq and. In the other dangerous context revealed the competence was the number one characteristic. That followers look towards in a leader in a dangerous context. They also had a tendency to focus on their followers and to put their own personal well being and safety behind that of the people that they were leading. They live common lifestyles with their followers they shared risks with their followers and in general by doing that they develop high levels of trust and loyalty from the people who they were with. I know you sent that to leadership based on that kind of idea i serve s where the leader think about him or herself has a starving to the followers rather than the other way around. It's really the only kind at work and extremely dangerous situations can you explain why that is and i'll tell how you develop that and later have time. Absolutely leadership but it's core is giving followers what they need in any given context and by doing that you can exert influence over them. In dangerous context followers are concerned for their own personal well being and survival and so consequently they look to leaders who are willing to put that goal first behind other ames with that leader might have. In the military we do put the mission ahead of those kinds of concerns but nothing else including the well being of the leader. And consequently followers focus on this willingness of the leader to put them first and it has a powerful effect on them. So when you take that same principle when you apply it in a business or some other setting it's extremely powerful and in some respects on com. Recently in the business probably seen many failures of leadership and too many situations in which later i seem not to be putting their followers have found. Do you think that yeah i guess leadership based on service it's possible in a business setting and it's so. How can organizations promote that or encourage that in there later. Katherine it would be naive to believe that in a business environment people don't wanna be individually successful and it would also be naive to think that the business itself is not the primary game. At the same time. There's a social context that exists in any organization is trying to achieve any cl- so consequently the ability for leaders to communicate to their followers that they are concerned with what happens to the organization. And let's not forget that there's a sense in which share holders are followers. That it's a powerful way to influence people and it's also very positive way. To influence people. That's one of the reasons why i think it has a lot of value in business. People don't wanna be thrown under the bus and they don't want leaders to walk away with profits when they're left holding the bag whether they be employees or share holders or anyone else whose part of that social context of that business. So we eating from the perspective that people are important. And that the leaders job is not necessarily simply to get ahead as an individual but to bring everyone with um. Is i think fundamental and we see it in our best business leaders. And had last plane it's your job to prepare young leaders to leave and extremely dangerous situation and to get things right on the very first back they have no luxury not tail. White and out the way that you train leaders. To be that content and to believe people and such a way that they're trustworthy in that situation what can we learn in the business world from the way that you train your officer. First the use of the term train is an assumption and that assumption is that leadership is a skill set or that it's in a aggregate of skills which is only partly true. Also it can be conceived of as an identity. And i think the thing that sets are approach to leadership apart from leader development another contracts is it there's a tendency to focus on skills or when leaders appointed to focus on that role. At west point we don't focus on either those thanks very much what we focus on is the development of the leader identity. So a graduate from the military academy. Has been through a number of training and educational in inspirational experiences that cause them to think of themselves. As a leader their self identity is as a leader and so consequently they continue to develop. And they can lead across a wide variety of. Circumstances so that we could never possibly pre decked and that includes. Dangerous and on certain circumstances which we know they will face during their military careers. So the point is not to me early trains someone in leader skills but to get are graduates to have and identity that's embedded in there persona so they didn't any circumstance they're going to emerges leaders. So i'd like to talk a little bit about the current part in afghanistan and iraq. And can you talk a little bit about how f at all those words are different from previous conflict in terms of their demands they pet in officers especially the junior officers too i leading people on the ground into a situation. All wars carry with them a high degree of uncertainty and volatility and challenge the people who have to lead in those contacts. The current wars and iraq and afghanistan are different i believe because of the amount of multicultural capacity or capability that's required of leaders in those contacts. Wars always at human endeavor but in these two locations right now the goals are really in the human dimension as opposed to the destruction of some army as it was in world war two or even and. Korea or vietnam. And so consequently demands replaced on. Young leaders or not merely to fight but to change how people think. And that pushes these wars into a dimension that we really have not been in in the past how are you preparing young leaders to faces different talents yes and he's conflict we can prepare him leaders to tackle the use. Multicultural challenges bye. Giving them an appreciation for the depth and breadth of what cultures are and so in the late nineteen nineties we began to modify the academic curriculum at west point. To match those demands so even before the wars began we were already recognizing that the future of warfare is really you know multicultural dimension. In addition the training that occurs on west point has focused on the realities of those theaters. So now if you attended summer training at west point rather than seeing the types of maneuvers typical of the cold war era. You might find a mock iraqi village populated with contractors that speak the language and who have lived in iraq. And you would find cadets facing scenarios not unlike what their peers who have already graduated are facing now and those theaters. So both the educational component to their development as well as the training component to their development. Have been specifically modified. To support the requirements and theatre and yeah but you talk about continuous learning as a crystal aspect of leading an extreme situation can you can still examples of how that's work during these weren't in iraq and afghanistan. One of the basic findings from our studies on leading and dangerous contacts because it's very adaptive to focus outward on the environment instead of in word upon oneself and one's emotions. That out we're focused sets up context where learning about the environment occurs very very rapidly. One powerful example of how this played out in baghdad. Was in two thousand and three two two thousand and four our focus was on sharing information about how improvised explosive devices were killing our soldiers during operations in baghdad. Consequently we put an army major. Who had skills and knowledge management and the development of networks into a higher headquarters in baghdad. And over about a two month period he built a system for commanders young commanders junior military officers to communicate laterally with one another and a network fashion. What we found was before that the enemy could react to our tactics and there would be a lag time that was very dangerous for our soldiers until we adapted to their adept patient. The network activity allowed us to get ahead of the enemies ability to react and so consequently it was an important part of learning in that environment driven by the danger inherent operations there. So if there's something about ten nature i as leading and an extreme situation that are they telling encourages that kind of adopted validate. In context where there's a lot of a ambiguity and dangerous contacts always have ambiguity is one of their characteristics. There's a tremendous need to d central lives control over what's happening in that environment to the people who are immediately involved with solving the problem. Leaders can't afford to try to retain command and control in the hierarchy and those kinds of contacts. Some of the day that we brought out of iraq about the nature of followers and what makes a good follow we're in a combat context has to do with the willingness to take initiative so consequently in these kinds of contacts. It's important for leaders to be competent but it's also very important for followers to take initiative in solving problems and in accomplishing the mission for that particular organization. That is how adapt ability develops in these places. No i got that don't work in life and death situations that that the economy and crisis there's a great deal and and again i d and enter in p facing all of us in business. At the moment whether to or or three is the most important things business later should be doing or thinking about right now in the face of allentown uncertainty. Borrowing from our work business we should understand that right now all eyes are on them. Because in dangerous or in certain contexts followers focus heavily on their leaders and try to read them to determine how bad things are. What approach leaders gonna take to solving their problems so the first thing that i would say is that they're in the spotlight right now. The second thing is that their competence is really what people are focused on the social relationships that they've developed and other sorts of sauce skills become less and less important as the stakes get higher. The third thing but i think they should take from the work that we've done in trying to express how leadership happens in dangerous contacts is that trust can be fleeting. And that it's determined largely on whether those followers believe that that leaders going to act in their own self interest or in the greater self interest of the organization and the people who are there. Thank you tom very much for joining us today thank you catherine. Her phone call because i think as an extremist leadership leading if your life depended on it you can find more i did um leadership in today's military at have a business dot org slash priceline hyphen leadership. Hm
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