The Long Shadow – How to Follow a Superstar

We may pity the person following someone who is widely acclaimed in their field. But they are doing really important work, and we should thank them. 

A Tennessee democrat who was firmly committed to the Union, Andrew Johnson had a distinguished career as congressman, senator and governor of his state. Hoping to send a message of reconciliation to the rebellious South, Lincoln chose Johnson as his vice president in 1864. Johnson’s debut on the national stage went poorly, with a rambling and perhaps drunken speech when he assumed office in March 1865. Lincoln followed with a masterpiece, his Second Inaugural Address. Little did anyone know that in only six weeks, at one of the most crucial times in American history, the rambler would be President.

A Missouri democrat who came to national prominence investigating fraud, waste and abuse on the Committee of Military Affairs during the Second World War, Harry Truman had earlier served as farmer, haberdasher, judge and US senator. With President Franklin Roosevelt in declining health and many expecting that he would not survive his fourth term, the party looked for a vice president who could succeed in the top job. Eighty-two days after the Inauguration, Roosevelt lay dead, and Truman took the top job.

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How Much Do Leaders Care?

It is true that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care

  • A husband and father earns the right to lead his family by caring for his wife and children.
  • A minister earns the right to preach by caring for his congregation.
  • A physician earns the right to teach medical students and residents by caring for them, and the right to influence and even direct his patients by caring for them.
  • A commander earns the right to command by caring for his soldiers.
  • A manager earns the right to lead by caring for his employees.
  • A teacher earns the right to teach by caring for his students.
  • A king earns the right to rule and a prime minister or president earns the right to preside (exercise authority or control) by caring for his citizens.

Caring is not merely feeling benevolent emotions.  Actually, since emotions are merely a side effect of thoughts and actions, benevolent emotions are an outgrowth, not a cause or a definition, or caring.  Leaders who care do the following for those who follow them:

  • Learn about them
  • Pray for them
  • Encourage them
  • Talk to them
  • Listen to them
  • Rebuke them
  • Mentor them
  • Teach them
  • Be accountable to them

Integrity and Leadership

How important is integrity, really, in leadership? Why? How can we find leaders with integrity? We must begin with integrity in ourselves. 

In the fall of 1996, several allegations of sexual misconduct between Army leaders and their subordinates became public.  The ensuing investigations found many cases in which the allegations were true, and trust began to erode within and towards the US Army.  As a result, the Army sought to clarify and promote the values which have been at the heart of American military service for over 200 years.  Leaders felt that by emphasizing the values that we held, fought for and died for, they could produce a better fighting force.  The mnemonic “LDRSHIP”, pronounced as “leadership”, communicated what the Army was all about.

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DOTMLPF-P Analysis and Military Medicine

A comprehensive and highly useful military model for analyzing and addressing problems that does well in non-military settings as well.

My staff and I were meeting at the end of a long day. As representatives of the regional headquarters they had been working with their counterparts at our subordinate medical facilities on an important project with a tight suspense, and they had met resistance. One exasperated lady at a hospital said, “Tell your boss that we have full time jobs already!” Another one said, “This regional initiative just isn’t my top priority right now”, and one of my staff said “Sir, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.” Everyone who has worked long in leadership and management has heard these complaints time and again.

There is always a temptation to ignore such concerns and keep pushing, but that is rarely the right thing to do. One concern from my staff is that they did not feel as though their counterparts in the clinics and hospitals considered them value added. They wanted cooperation on these vital projects but did not perceive that they had much to give in return. This is a perpetual problem and when I worked in a hospital, I felt the same way about the regional staff.

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Formal Business Visits and Town Halls

How to have the most effective visits to outlying sections in your business, and how to have the most effective town hall meetings with stakeholders.  

Management gurus since the 1970s have taught leaders to “manage by walking around (MBWA)”; getting out of the office and into the workplace to see for themselves what was going on in their organization. It is a very old idea. Generals such as Napoleon Bonaparte and business tycoons such as Henry Ford were legendary for getting first-hand information about their organization and its environment, but MBWA has been around since before Moses walked among the people of Israel during the Exodus (c. 1400 BC).

Most MBWA is informal, with the boss walking from department to department or store to store, meeting people, talking, and most importantly listening to them. There are times, however, when leaders need to interact with their organizations and with other organizations more formally. My leadership team in the Joint Task Force – National Capital Medicine (later National Capital Region Medical Directorate (NCRMD), part of the Defense Health Agency), routinely met with leaders and workers at military hospitals and clinics throughout our market. We also visited Federal Facilities such as the Veteran’s Administration, and major regional partners including the hospitals and clinics of the Johns Hopkins, Medstar and INOVA systems. Sometimes formal trips to universities and other non-medical facilities were required, and often my team and I addressed groups of stakeholders in a town hall or public forum.

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Temperaments Model of Personality and Leadership

We all have different temperaments. Knowing our own and others can improve working together and getting important work done. 

Most experts agree that leadership is the single most important factor in the success of any organization. Libraries of books, thousands of coaches, and scores of organizations exist to help people become better leaders. Tomes decry the lack of leadership in all areas of life. An Arab proverb is said to read “Better an army of sheep led by a lion than an army of lions led by a sheep.”

Leadership can be taught, and it can be useful to identify each individual’s natural temperament, understand the strengths and weaknesses of that temperament, and help the leader perfect what is good and improve what is bad. There are dozens of ways to characterize personality, including the Myers-Briggs (introvert-extrovert, thinking-feeling, sensing-intuiting, and judging-perceiving), Types A and B, Animals (bear-monkey-dolphin-owl) and others. One of the most famous is the Temperaments (choleric-sanguine-melancholy-phlegmatic). Each model has strengths and weaknesses, and Temperaments model is commonly used.

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Awards and Recognition Ceremonies – Are They Really About You?

Why have awards and recognitions, and why have ceremonies for them? Because such inducements help the organization even more than the individual. 

“A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” Napoleon Bonaparte

An Air Force physician had not had a ceremony for his promotion to major and asked me if he should have one for his coming promotion to lieutenant colonel. His former supervisor was not pleased, and though this bright and self-effacing young officer didn’t want to be honored in front of others, he also didn’t want to get in trouble.

During two years as Chief Medical Officer at an Army hospital in Virginia, I routinely interviewed people leaving the Army. Several retiring officers said that they did not want retirement ceremonies. They felt that such events put too much focus on them and they wanted to pass quietly into civilian life.

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