Leadership Insights from “A Day of Infamy”

PaperThis past summer I was fortunate to conduct a leadership seminar for a corporate group in Honolulu using the attack on Pearl Harbor
our case study.  This encouraged me to do extensive background reading on the tragic events of December 7th 1941 and the days immediately following.  I also visited the sites in Hawaii that were attacked.  The effort reaffirmed my belief that during crises the best (and sometimes the worst….) about leadership in any organization is underscored at such moments of great stress.  Clearly, this consideration is not in any way meant to glorify war, as I have personally seen far too much of war’s horror and destruction.  But it is rather to consider the day of infamy (that is so remembered by nearly every American and others around the world) from the perspective of what can any leader learn from this tragedy that might well resonate today?  As we approach the seventy-second anniversary of the attack there are a large number of important insights that can be taken from this iconic event.  The following are just a few.

Innovation is the key to any organization’s long term success.  Peter Drucker, the famous expert on organizations, once said that “innovation is change that creates a new dimension of performance”.  But a “new idea” in any organization does not become an “innovation” until it can be replicated reliably on a meaningful scale, is fully embraced by the organization, and its advantages exploited.

The US military deployed the first radars on the north side of the island of Oahu in late November 1941.  On the morning of December 7th two young privates were manning the radar at Opana.  They identified the attacking Japanese aircraft on their scope roughly forty minutes before the attack actually began and reported it to the central tracking station at Ft. Shafter.  Despite their insistence an officer on duty told them, “don’t worry about it”.  He had not been trained, likely had little faith in the new devices, and mistakenly believed the sightings were new American bombers scheduled to arrive from the mainland.  In the aftermath of the battle, one of the soldiers commented, “the attack proved the value of this technology.  Up until then the Navy had viewed the radars as toys”.

What is the one thing that leaders must do?  They must DECIDE.  This may seem trite, but that does not make it less true.  Leaders must decide what action their organization is going to take and must further decide when their decision will be executed.  How much time is going to be used considering options?  How much information is needed particularly at difficult moments before a decision is made?  Have we developed subordinates who feel empowered to make timely decisions that may have a dramatic impact upon the entire organization?

On the morning of December 7th half of the commanders of the battleships in Pearl Harbor were ashore.  Lieutenant Commander James Thomas, a Navy Reservist, was the senior officer aboard the USS Nevada.  Prior to the attack a junior officer had ordered a second boiler lit to provide power for the ship.  Consequently, the Nevada was the only battleship able to generate sufficient engine power to get underway once the Japanese attack began.  Thomas quickly surveyed the situation and decided the ship had a better chance of survival if they made a run for the open sea.  As bombs rained down he ordered the Nevada underway and headed toward the harbor entrance.  Japanese aircraft quickly focused on the Nevada, and it was hit by a number of bombs and torpedoes.  As the ship approached the narrow entrance to the harbor Thomas realized that there was a real chance the Nevada might now sink and block the harbor entirely.  He ordered the ship in the shallow water near Hospital Point.  Two members of the Nevada crew were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and Thomas received the Navy Cross.

Thomas employed a concept of decision-making called the “OODA Loop — “Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act” that all leaders should consider.  He clearly observed the challenge to his ship and oriented on the key problem of taking actions that provided the best chance for the ship to survive the Japanese onslaught.  He then decided and ordered his crew to get the battleship underway.  When conditions changed dramatically, he reevaluated and made a timely decision that was clearly in the best interest of his ship and the entire force at Pearl Harbor.

Leadership and Teamwork.  The US Navy’s leadership paradigm is:  Ship, Shipmate, Self.  This was clearly illustrated in the initial hour following the Japanese attack.  Each individual’s initial responsibility is to his or her “ship” or their “team”.  Their second responsibility is to their “shipmates” or “teammates”, and there were extraordinary acts of heroism as Marines, soldiers, and sailors cared for each other.  Finally, “self” which implies the responsibility each team member has to not only care for themselves so they can perform well but also live up to the ethical norms of the organization.  Furthermore, they must seek continual improvement so they can be a better member of the team.
Doris Miller was an African American sailor aboard the USS West Virginia.  Miller was the ship’s heavyweight boxing championship but due to his race could only serve as a mess attendant.  He was collecting laundry when the attack began.  Miller immediately began hauling his wounded “shipmates” to safety and saved several lives.  He later carried ship’s injured captain to safety.  Miller then took over a 50-caliber anti-aircraft gun, which he had not been trained to use, and he began to defend his ship by firing at diving Japanese planes.  He is credited with having shot down at least one enemy aircraft before running out of ammunition and being ordered to abandon ship.  Miller was the first African-American to win the Navy Cross, but sadly Doris Miller would not see final victory.  In 1943, Miller’s ship was sunk in the Gilbert Islands, and he was never seen again.

Innovation, decision-making, and teamwork were crucial during the day of infamy.  As we consider this historic event Americans must be honest — the United States suffered one of its greatest defeats on that tragic day.  But we can learn a tremendous amount from the courageous efforts of the Pearl Harbor defenders.  They demonstrated critical leadership traits that were vital on December 7th 1941 and to America’s eventual success in World War II.  They remain critically important to any organization today.

Your 3-step crisis management plan

crisisAs Henry Kissinger famously said, “There cannot be a crisis today; my schedule is already full!”

Unfortunately, crises have no respect for our busy calendars. That is why it is of utmost importance that every organization, big or small, have a crisis management plan.

In mental health terms, a crisis refers not necessarily to a traumatic situation or event, but to a person’s reaction. One person might be deeply affected by an incident, while another person suffers little or no ill effects. Furthermore, the Chinese word for crisis presents a good depiction of its components. The word crisis in Chinese is formed by two other characters — danger and opportunity. A crisis presents an obstacle, trauma, or threat, but it also presents a chance for either organizational growth or decline.

We often think of a crisis as a sudden unexpected disaster, such as a car accident, natural disaster, or other cataclysmic event. However, crises can range substantially in type and severity. Sometimes a crisis is a predictable part of the life cycle.  Situational crises are sudden and unexpected, such as accidents and natural disasters. Existential crises are inner conflicts related to things such as life purpose, direction, and spirituality.  But there is a common three-step approach to leading in crisis that is useful to organize a leader’s thinking and efforts.

chinese-crisis-2

STEP 1: Before the crisis — inoculate your organization!  Leaders must “generate leadership” in their organization.

  • Give people at all levels the opportunity to lead experiments or projects that will provide them confidence while assisting your organization to adapt to change.
  • The leader must demonstrate their commitment to ethics and organizational values. This is important to building trust, which will be tested during moments of stress.
  • “Run the plays but encourage initiative”.  Leaders must frequently emphasize organizational policies and priorities, but they also need to provide space for their team to show initiative and take risks.
  • Have a crisis action plan and test it.  Make sure key members of your team are aware of it as well as the organization’s succession plan.  Things may go wrong when the leader is not present.
  • Spend time “managing by walking around”.  The leader must stay “in touch” with his or her organization.  The leader must avoid getting “into a bubble” where only good news makes it way to him or her.

STEP 2: During the crisis — those nearest must act!  Leaders must quickly consider whether or not they have empowered their team.  They should consider the following:

  • A leader’s emotional intelligence that focuses on self-awareness, self-motivation, empathy, and an ability to control his or her fears and emotions publicly is critical.
  • Lead and be seen leading.  Set the tone for the organization.  Remember the team is unlikely to exceed your level of optimism.  One of the most important assets a leader has during a crisis is his or her presence.  Where should they be and who needs to see them?
  • The media can be your best friend or your worst enemy.  In our 24-hour transparent world any crisis may quickly gain the spotlight.  Who is the “face of my organization with the press”?  When I speak to the press have I carefully considered what information I want to convey?
  • Decide, delegate, and disappear.  Leaders must praise constantly, punish privately, and unleash achievement vs. demanding obedience.  You must reduce the “bystander phenomenon” whereby the probability that anyone will act is often inversely proportional to the number of people available.

STEP 3: After the crisis!  The leader must demonstrate caring, lead the organization’s efforts to learn from this experience, and set a new course.

  • Leaders must consider their own as well as their team’s psychological health.  Sadly, we have learned a great deal about PTSD in the last decade.  Consequently, leaders are accountable to engage in self-assessment, seek assistance, and scrutinize the fitness of their team.
  • Establish a process to identify lessons from the crisis and incorporate them into the organization’s plans for the future.  Insure that the entire team is involved in this process.
  • Create a new vision for the organization that provides meaning to what may be negative events while framing a future ideal.  This should consider two questions.  Who can we become? Who relies on us?

All leaders must accept that crises will occur.  Remember Murphy’s Law — Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and will likely do so at the worst moment!  Also remember Schultz’s Corollary — Murphy was an optimist!  Every organization must not only prepare for crises but also consider that a crisis may be an opportunity to become an even better, stronger, more effective team.  Successful leaders seek to inoculate their organizations in advance, empower the organization during the crisis, and learn from the crisis after the fact.   In this regard Abigail Adams, the wife of our second president may be insightful:

“These are times in which a genius would wish to live.  It is not in the still calm of life or in the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed…great necessities call out great virtue.”

   — Letter to her son, John Quincy Adams

D6 partners with leading Washington, DC think-tank

Check Out Our Featured Fall Workshop!

Diamond6 is excited to announce its latest partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies Seven Revolutions (7Revs) program. The goal of this partnership is to combine leadership lessons from the Battle of Gettysburg with groundbreaking research into pressing global trends. This exclusive effort combines experts in leadership development and global change to create a one-of-a-kind program.

Together, D6 and CSIS have created a one-of-a-kind 2-day workshop experience. The 7 Revolutions Leadership Workshop  uses leadership lessons of the past to inform your decisions for the future of your organization. Leadership is the art of defining a vision for an organization and empowering others to follow that vision. Successful leaders must anticipate “revolutions” that will affect their organizations and prepare for future challenges using a combination of innovative leadership principles, best practices, and relevant data.

This workshop is perfect for leadership and management teams of medium to large corporations and non-profits.

Download the informational brochure here.

Learning from the Past, Exploring Challenges for the Future

The 2-day workshop includes a memorable day on the Gettysburg Battlefield with a historian and a leadership expert that will provide key leadership insights that are as applicable today as they were in 1863. We will complete our discussion in the cemetery where President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address – perhaps the most succinct vision statement in the English language. On the second day we will examine Seven Revolutions, a comprehensive multimedia presentation of future trends created by CSIS. This includes innovative exercises and in-depth/tailored discussions that will transform any leader’s approach to emerging challenges. You will have the opportunity to dissect issues and evaluate priorities with CSIS’s leading scholars and Diamond6’s leadership experts to take the first step toward identifying actions that will positively affect the future of your organization.

The 2-DayWorkshop Schedule

Day 1
Arrive in Gettysburg
Gettysburg Leadership Overview and Battlefield Seminar
Overnight at the historic Gettysburg Hotel

Day 2
7 Revolutions Presentation
Group discussion and de-brief
Depart Gettysburg

Space is Limited!

We have set aside exclusive dates for this featured workshop but with limited space. The following dates are still available:

Friday October 11 & Saturday October 12
Monday October 14 & Tuesday October 15
Sunday November 10 & Monday November 11
Monday November 11 & Tuesday November 12
Thursday November 14 & Friday November 15
Friday November 15 & Saturday November 16

Learn More Today!

For more information or to sign up please contact Tanya McCausland at tanya@diamondsixleadership.com

Diamond6 in Hawaii; Leadership and Pearl Harbor

Ww2_pearl_harbor_resolve_posterOn July 9-10, 2013, Diamond6 partnered with First Canoe Strategies and Consulting, Inc. to host a very special leadership event for a major US company with international interests.   First Canoe, based in Honolulu, includes leadership training and leader development among its core competencies, primarily working with companies based in Hawaii or conducting business there.   Seminars can also be packaged for groups from companies based on the mainland that are traveling to or through Hawaii for conventions, off sites, strategic planning sessions or other similar events.

Those who are familiar with the Diamond6 leader training that takes place on the Gettysburg battlefield would recognize the format of the recent event hosted by First Canoe in Honolulu. The foundation of the seminar is based on one of the toughest, best known crucibles for leaders in America’s history—the attack on Pearl Harbor on “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”, December 7, 1941.  On that day, leaders were forged, leadership lessons were learned, and principles were tested that hold enormous value—and relevance—for the leaders of any organization who face tough decisions and the requirement to “make it happen” in an environment of great uncertainty or crisis.

Similar to the Gettysburg experience, Diamond6 and First Canoe facilitators took participants to key vantage points overlooking the sites where leaders took action, made decisions, and otherwise shaped the course of the battle that day, ultimately setting the course of history.  At each stop the conversation focused on an important leadership topic:

  • Pearl Harbor and “Battleship Row”—How does the company adapt to new technologies?
  • Hospital Point (the site of the emergency grounding of the USS Nevada after the initial attack)—How can our leaders make fast decisions in a crisis and get out ahead of the competition or a looming problem?
  • Hickam and Wheeler Airfields—Where do we see examples of “groupthink” in the company, and does it have us “lined up on a runway” vulnerable to unexpected surprises?
  • Fort Shafter (“The Pineapple Pentagon”)—What is the difference between authority and responsibility?  Do we have each allocated appropriately?
  • The Punchbowl—Do we understand our organizational culture, and is it conducive to our operations?

The seminar also included time for group discussion and reflection.  Some key insights that participants surfaced at these sessions included:

  • The Power of the Few:  how individual leaders can make a difference for the entire organization.
  • Inspirational Leadership:  the importance of a motivated and motivational leader.
  • Crisis—Danger and Opportunity:  how to seize the opportunity and hedge against the effects of danger
  • Information and Knowledge:  the difference between the two, and how to turn information into knowledge.
  • Decision Making:  how and when to make decisions, or decide not to.
  • Leading the Boss:  how to get the decisions and guidance you need to do your job.
  • Effective Communications:  how to make them the standard in the company.

Based on the survey administered at the end of the session, the experience was both valuable and enjoyable.  Some sample comments:

  • “Well prepared, planned, and executed by very professional people…” (An assistant to the company’s vice president)
  • “All of the seminar was highly impactful, not just one particular part…”  (A mid-level manager)
  • “I would definitely recommend this seminar to my industry friends…”  (A mid-level manager)
  • “The participants were “wowed”, with some saying that it was their best training ever!”  (Corporate Vice President)

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For more information on First Canoe or the “Date Which Will Live in Infamy” Leadership Seminar, go to http://firstcanoe.com or send an e-mail to Crissy Gayagas (President and Founding Partner) at info@firstcanoe.com.  Seminar information is also available through Diamond6 at www.diamondsixleadership.com or info@diamondsixleadership.com

The top three leadership lessons from the battle of Gettysburg

Article was originally published in The Guardian on July 2, 2013

Gettysburg_General_Armistead_Picketts_Charge_smallThe United States has fought many battles in its history. During two battles, however, the fate of the entire nation hung in the balance. The first was Yorktown where the combined forces of George Washington’s Continental army and a French fleet defeated the British army and forced its surrender. If Washington had lost at Yorktown, the American war for independence might well have failed. The second was at Gettysburg during the American civil war.

For three days, 1-3 July 1863 the future of the US as one nation was in jeopardy. A Confederate victory could have resulted in recognition of the south as an independent state by several European powers, and Abraham Lincoln would likely have lost the election in 1864.

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. We have an opportunity to reflect on many important leadership lessons that are as relevant today as they were in 1863. Let’s consider three:

1. The importance of time and timing
When a leader makes a decision for his/her organization, timing may actually be more important than the decision taken. The battle of Gettysburg occurs largely because a Union cavalry commander, John Buford, recognizes the critical importance of the town’s crossroads. As a result, he positions his troopers on the best terrain west of the city, resulting in the initial fighting on 1 July.

Today, we often believe that leaders are better equipped to make decisions based on a plethora of available technological devices (cellphones, iPads, computers, etc) and data. But if leaders today are not careful these very devices can rob their organizations of initiative. Buford made a decision for the entire Union army. If he had had a cellphone he might well have called his boss to ask his opinion, left a voicemail, sent a text, etc and then waited for a reply before acting thus wasting precious time.

2. Effective leaders must “park” their personal ego and focus on what is best for their organization
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great argues his research of the best modern companies demonstrates that so-called “Level 5 leaders” who make decisions solely based on what is best for their organizations are the most successful. Robert E Lee arrived at Gettysburg following a string of victories at Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg. Consequently, some civil war historians have suggested that Lee, despite his brilliance as a tactician, may have suffered from hubris. He appears to have believed that he and his army of Northern Virginia could not be defeated. As a result he orders the now famous “Pickett’s Charge” on the third day, which resulted in disaster.

3. An effective leader must articulate and communicate a strategic vision to his/her organization
The full story of Gettysburg encompasses both the battle and the Gettysburg Address delivered by President Lincoln on 19 November 1863. This iconic speech of less than 300 words described a clear vision for the nation’s future – “a new birth of freedom”. It followed naturally from his first inaugural address that focused on preserving the Union, and the Emancipation Proclamation which freed slaves in the “states under rebellion” but did not end slavery as an institution.

Lincoln would continue to communicate his vision for the nation to the end. At his urging, the US Congress passed the 13th Amendment ending slavery in America in January 1865. On 4 March, Lincoln was inaugurated for a second term. During his brief remarks (only slightly over 700 words) he described a vision of reconciliation: “With malice towards none, with charity towards all.” He later provided guidance to his Generals Ulysses S Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman that they should let them up easy when dealing with the impending surrender of Confederate troops.

On 10 April, there were celebrations throughout Washington following the announcement that Robert E Lee had surrendered. Lincoln addressed a crowd outside the White House that evening, and his final speech argued that former slaves who had fought for the Union should receive full citizenship including the right to vote. One of the onlookers was John Wilkes Booth, a relatively famous actor. On 14 April, Booth shot Lincoln during a play at Fords Theater. The president would die the next day – Good Friday. Sadly, the vision he articulated would not be realized for over a century.

Leadership is clearly an art and not a science, and we can learn much from the past. As we prepare for the future, leadership is as critical to any organization today as it was during a few days 1863.

Image from HERE.

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Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.
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Leadership and Globalization

globalizationGlobalization is how many describe the period in which we live.  It is clearly dynamic and characterized by near constant change.  Furthermore, globalization describes an ongoing process by which economies, societies and cultures have become integrated through globe-spanning networks.  Experts agree that it is driven by a combination of economic, technological, sociocultural, political and biological factors.  Furthermore, it also refers to the transnational dissemination of ideas, languages, or popular culture.  Tom Friedman, the celebrated author described it in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree as “the 100-meter dash, over and over and over.  And no matter how many times you win, you have to race again the next day.  And if you lose by just one-hundredth of a second, it can be as if you lost by an hour.

Clearly, leaders have a major role in how their organizations and teams deal with both the challenges and opportunities of globalization.  I recently ran a series of seminars for a large school district leadership team focused on various aspects of globalization and how it affects education.  We discussed in detail changes that every school district must consider both in terms of structure and curriculum.  One of our speakers made a remarkable observation.  “Educators,” he said “are the first responders to globalization”.

I am firmly convinced this is absolutely true.  Educators are members of a profession. Dr. Andrew Abbott, one of the nation’s experts on the sociology of professions, argues that professions (theologians, the military, law enforcement, and doctors) have three common characteristics.  First, each is responsible for the continued development of an abstract body of knowledge that is critical to society.  Second, society grants professions a certain level of autonomy.  Professions have rituals and licensing to grant membership and have the authority to remove individuals if they violate its norms.  Third, each profession provides a service to society, which is critical if it is to endure and prosper.  With this in mind I believe society holds leaders in education responsible for preparing the next generation to deal with both the challenges and opportunities that globalization offers.

As I thought about this further I was reminded of the words of another great “educator” – Fred Rogers (AKA “Mr. Rogers”).  Fred once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’  Globalization may be scary at times to all of us, and particularly students who realize it will frame their future.  Consequently, if Fred’s Mom was with us today I think she would be talking about educators….


[1] Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, New York: Anchor Books, 2000, p. 7.

Image from HERE.

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Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.
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Leading During a Crisis

OB-DE821_billge_D_20090224183025It seems like we are surrounded by crises – the bombing at the Boston Marathon, shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, gas explosion in Texas, and destructive tornadoes that struck Oklahoma.  In mental health terms, a crisis refers not necessarily to a traumatic situation or event, but to a person’s reaction to an event. One person might be deeply affected by an event, while another individual suffers little or no ill effects. As we consider crises it may be useful to remember that the Chinese word for crisis summarizes its components. The word crisis in Chinese is formed with the combination of two characters — danger and opportunity. A crisis presents an obstacle, trauma, or threat, but it also presents leaders an opportunity for either growth or decline.

We often think of a crisis as a sudden unexpected disaster, such as a car accident, natural disaster, or other cataclysmic event. However, crises can range substantially in type and severity. Sometimes a crisis is a predictable part of the life cycle.  Situational crises are sudden and unexpected, such as accidents and natural disasters. Existential crises are inner conflicts related to things such as life purpose, direction, and spirituality.

All leaders know that their organization will undergo crises.  They must prepare plans and processes that “inoculate” as much as possible their organization from its worst effects.  This includes plans for immediate crisis action, leader succession, communications, etc.  Next, good leaders must realize that all members of the organization will look to them for both direction and encouragement.  Finally, leaders must realize that their organization will not be the same after the crisis.  They must demonstrate caring and set a new course for the future.  A critical part of this is to take the time to confront a difficult question – “What can we learn from this experience no matter how difficult that will make us a better organization in future?”

Finally, it may be helpful to consider an old phrase from World War II — “Keep calm and carry on”.    This was a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of the Second World War.  It was intended to raise the morale of the British public in the aftermath of widely predicted mass air attacks on major cities. Oddly, the poster had only limited distribution with no public display, and thus was little known. The poster was rediscovered in 2000, and since then has been widely used throughout the United Kingdom.  During the preparation for the Olympic Games it was reissued – “Keep calm and carry on…it’s only the Olympics!

Image from HERE.

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Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.
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ASBOI Workshop Kickoff Call Recording

Thank you for joining in on the ASBOI Workshop Kickoff Call on Wednesday, June 5th.
Below is a link to the recording and slides.

If you have any questions between now and our workshop in July please email us at info@diamondsixleadership.com

RECORDING LINK: ASBOI Workshop Kickoff Call 6-5-13 7.06 PM

If you have trouble accessing it there due to different system requirements, you can access the recording here instead.