You want your picture on a quarter?

There are approximately 31.5 billion quarters circulating throughout our nation’s economy at last count, give or take several million. That is a lot of exposure for the person whose face appears on the “heads side.” Wouldn’t it be nice, even gratifying if our picture was on a quarter: A personal 25-cent bastion of immortality?

George Washington has held the place of honor since 1932. Today, among Americans, that name is almost cliché. Nationally, we are0_zps62325776 so accustomed to his generic description, “Father of Our Country” that we eclipse what the man, the icon, did to get on the quarter. Here’s a hint: You must be good before you become an icon. You must be extremely good, perhaps even sublime, to get on a quarter.

There is a recipe for making it on money, which requires three ingredients. First, live during a crisis period for America. Second, be a leader who can tame the crisis and bring the country through the period better than it was before. Finally, possess fortitude, which surmounts complacency, when complacency is the easiest most risk-free answer to the crisis.

Time we cannot control. If we are lucky enough, or unlucky enough, to live through a desperate crisis, we check off this ingredient of the formula. But, that is the easy part. It’s nothing more than fate and a birthday.

Strong, visionary leadership is the key precious quality, the rare second ingredient. What makes Washington human is he did not possess these leadership qualities when he became the commander of the Continental Army. But he developed as a leader, learning from his mistakes and from others.

So what is it Washington did that a hundred other leaders who lived through the American Revolution did not do equally well? Let’s convert his situation into one that makes sense to us now. Imagine George Washington is alive today and owns a franchise fast food restaurant: McDonald’s, Arby’s, Burger King—whatever. He has 20 employees. One morning when he opens up, only three employees show up for work. The same day, he learns a major competitor is building a restaurant directly across the street. Making things worse, George finds out his manager is going to work for this new competitor.

A month later, three of his missing employees come back to work. He must accept them back because good help is scarce. Now he has six people for all shifts. George’s staff is a far cry from his normal 20 employees and can barely keep his doors open for business. He promotes a new manager, but this person does not like work and spends the day reading newspapers in the break area.

Compounding Washington’s troubles, the franchise home office wants to pull his franchise rights and give them to one of his ex-employees. Finally, the black coup de grace: The bank will not extend credit so he can replace his worn out kitchen equipment.

Pretend for a moment we are George Washington, sitting in his office late one night, reviewing the present crisis. What would we think? What would we do? The natural inclination is, “This is hopeless!” Perhaps a “For Sale” might appear in front of the restaurant?

This is exactly the kind of situation George Washington faced entering the winter of 1776. Yet George took the crisis and converted it into a fifty-store powerhouse: the United States. Washington’s Army around New York numbered roughly 20,000 during the summer of 1776. By Christmas, his force was just over 3,000. He had limited supplies, few supporters within Congress and no financial backing. Others were machinating behind his back to replace him. His British foe outnumbered him more than 3-to-1. The situation was desperate. Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River is more than a quaint painting. It is the defining moment in American history.

By strength of will alone, this one man saved the American Revolution. This is not a gross simplification or exaggeration. It is fact. Without a leader of Washington’s mettle, we might still sing “Rule Britannia” before sporting events instead of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Best case, America would still be sending teams to the Commonwealth Games. Washington was the embodiment of the Stocksdale Paradox: “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end while confronting the most brutal facts.” This kind of unique, intense commitment gets your face on a quarter. It also results in two terms as president, and the title “Father of Our Country.”

Most would quit when faced by seemingly insurmountable odds. Not George. He possessed a vision for America, a dream he held more dearly than money or his life. He was not about to mortgage that dream cheaply.

The final ingredient for our recipe is willingness to lead when others defer. Washington was a wealthy man, a self-made businessman. He could easily have sat out the American Revolution and kept his portfolio safe. But his vision allowed no room for complacency. He gambled his property, his career and his life by leading the American army. Had the Revolution failed, Washington and dozens of patriots would surely have paid with their lives. Complacency was the easy answer, viewing the risk/reward equation. For George Washington, there was never a question. He placed country above self-interest and partisan posturing…imagine that. Others that aspired to usurp Washington ultimately showed their mettle was far inferior to his. We are indeed fortunate for his perseverance. It made Washington the indispensible man in American history.

Rarefied people like Washington exist today, poised and waiting for the next generation quarter. God forbid, a national crisis should provide the forum needed for greatness. Unfortunately for most, crisis usually means suffering and sacrifice. When it ends, all earn a share of glory once the country emerges on the “other side,” made of stronger tempered steel. But, in the end, the person who leads us to the other side through the crisis, gets their picture on a quarter.

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J. Mark Jackson is the Territory Manager for the state of Florida, a writer, leadership consultant and trainer, and a veteran of the War in Afghanistan, where he provided training and mentorship to 350 Afghan soldiers.

What can corporate leaders learn from the military?

military corporate

I was recently asked to give a talk by a corporate leader on this question and spent a great deal of time thinking about it. Having spent over thirty years in the US Army and commanded at several levels to include leading soldiers in combat, I hoped that I would have something useful to share. Since retiring from the military I have had the opportunity to speak on leadership and conduct many leadership workshops, so the question intrigued me.

One thing that makes examining the military organizations interesting is that they are all the same. A mechanize infantry or artillery battalion is designed respectively to have the same number of soldiers, same equipment, and an equal number of junior leaders. Each of them is supposed to have specific training and experience that qualifies them for their position. Despite this fact, some units perform better than others even if they are in the same location and have the same mission. The difference is often leadership throughout the organization. President Dwight Eisenhower defined leadership as “the ability to decide what has to be done, and then get people to want to do it.” This power is often the ingredient that separates success from failure. So what can corporate leaders learn by looking at the military?

Leadership is “background music”

Author John W. Gardner once noted that the first and last task of any leader is to keep “hope alive.” I had the honor of working in the Pentagon while General Colin Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a few years ago had the opportunity to have a private dinner with him. General Powell used to frequently say, “Optimism is a force multiplier.” The members of your organization may reach your level of optimism and enthusiasm but will only rarely exceed it. An effective leader knows that he or she must present a strong belief that the team will be successful and keep their doubts private.

Management by walking around….

Yogi Berra once said, “you can observe a lot by watching….” The film Captain Phillips, the true story of the captain of a supertanker ship, is a perfect example. He and his crew were taken hostage by pirates off the coast of Somalia and were eventually rescued by the US Navy. Phillips was a very successful ship captain and displayed a great deal of courage during this ordeal. When asked what he thought was the primary reason he had been successful for many years, he observed that the first thing he did every morning and the last thing he did every night was to walk the full length of the ship. He went into every compartment and spoke to every member of the crew.

Successful military commanders do the same thing. Clearly, when you are “managing by walking around” you are looking for potential problems. But the effective leader is also looking for successes and opportunities. Which young soldier is doing a great job and should be complimented? Which young officer needs a few minutes of mentoring about his or her future? Which NCO has a personal problem and needs someone to discuss it with?

Adaptability beats efficiency

I had the good fortune to get to know General Stan McChrystal, former US commander in Afghanistan while I was on active duty and am a greater admirer of his. Early in the war in Afghanistan, Stan said, “In 2004 we were successful in all our operations…but we were losing the war.”

Leadership is often about dealing with change, and I once worked for a general who used to say, “If you don’t like change…you are going to like irrelevance even less.” Leaders must lead and manage change in their organization. It is one of their fundamental responsibilities. But they must also establish a climate of initiative and innovation that allow their organization not only to succeed but also to keep succeeding. Military history is replete with defeats that were due to a failure to innovate and change.

In 1903 Henry Ford attempted to get a loan from a Michigan bank to establish his car company. The banker rejected his application and told him, “The horse is here to stay… the motor car is a fad.” Leadership is the ability to know when to accept change, and when to ignore the banker.

Critical Thinking and Myanmar

Last week I travelled to Myanmar as part of a US Track 2 negotiation team to discuss weapons of mass destruction with a group of senior retired Myanmarese officers. Prior to my departure I also taught a seminar to my students on critical thinking. It was a pretty eclectic week, and as I flew home it occurred to me that my trip to Yangon, Myanmar had expanded my understanding of critical thinking and its importance.

If you look for a definition of “critical thinking,” you may very likely find the following:

“Critical thinking is the ability to effectively receive information, evaluate the information, recall prior information, assimilate information by comparing differences and determining cause and effect, and evaluating the information to make decisions and solve problems”. It is closely related to the scientific method in our approach to problem solving and has been identified as a crucial aspect of any education.

One of the challenges of “critical thinking” is avoiding “groupthink.” This is a concept developed by Irving Janus in his book, Victims of Groupthink. Janus argued that “groupthink” occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, reality testing and moral judgment.” The symptoms of “groupthink” include:

  • Collective rationalization
  • Illusion of invulnerability
  • Belief in inherent morality
  • Stereotyped views of out-groups
  • Direct pressure on dissenters
  • Self-censorship
  • Illusion of unanimity
  • Self-appointed ‘mindguards’

When we arrived in Yangon, we delivered a series of presentations about American concerns that were focused on weapons of mass destruction, proliferation, etc. Frankly, I expected our counterparts to express a similar concern about these critical issues. A retired Myanmar general then gave a very long summary of his concerns that included: climate change, deforestation, poor health conditions, illegal mining, excessive fishing, human smuggling, illegal drugs, counterfeiting, etc. It suddenly dawned on me that perhaps we had fallen victim to at least a variation of groupthink. We clearly believed in the inherent morality of our arguments and assumed that unanimity existed on what was really important.

This suggests a cultural aspect to groupthink that is important as we become a much more global society. The Josephson Institute has identified “Six Pillars of Character” that may frame how we perceive problems in our respective societies: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. These provide a framework or lenses through which we consider critical issues, but our individual definitions of even these concepts may vary. Consequently, my Myanmar friends saw the world differently Not better, not worse, but differently. If I am to avoid the pitfalls of groupthink, I have to respect that, be willing to listen carefully, and consider other examples in our increasingly smaller world.

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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.

Teambuilding

Failing organizations are usually over-managed and under-led.
— Warren Bennis

If you are a sports fan like me, you were enthralled by the performance of excellent teams during the World Cup. Everyone who follows the so-called beautiful game marveled at the teamwork exhibited on the playing field. Americans were delighted at the efforts of the U.S. national team, who proved the old adage that the total is greater than the sum of the parts.

As the summer progressed, sports fans were engrossed in speculation about what NBA team LeBron James would join, as his addition would make them a future contender. While his decision to return to Cleveland may or may not result in a championship, most sports fans appeared somewhat pleased that his decision was motivated at least in part by a desire to return to his hometown team. As the summer wanes, baseball fans like me are engrossed at decisions by major league teams to move young players from the minors to the major leagues or seek last minute trades to improve a team’s chances for a final run towards the World Series.

But what do we mean by a “team?” The dictionary tells us that a “team” is a collection of people (often drawn from diverse but related groups) assigned to perform a well-defined function for an organization or a project. While this would appear fairly straight forward it does not help us with a second and even more critical question – how do you build a great team?

If I continue with my sports analogy, I might reflect on comments made by Yogi Berra when he was the manager of the New York Yankees. Berra led his team thru a difficult season and won the American League pennant, but then they had to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Berra was asked by a sportswriter, “Yogi, how do you build a world championship team?”

He quickly replied, “hire world championship players.”

Still that may not always be the final solution. Berra’s team eventually lost the World Series to the Cardinals. He also was a player for Casey Stengel, a very successful and veteran baseball manager. Stengel was once asked what was key to his success.

Stengel replied, “I try to keep the six guys who hate me away from the three guys who are still undecided!”

While this would hardly be a leadership style I would advocate it is important to realize that “finding championship players” is clearly necessary but not sufficient to ensure a great team. But there is not always a clear linear relationship between individual talent and overall group performance.

Roderick Swaab, a professor of organizational behavior, and a group of researchers conducted a study on the performance of basketball teams. They concluded that adding more talent to any team was important, but at a certain point their research showed that the addition of more talent was actually counterproductive. It resulted in worse teamwork and poorer overall performance. A similar study of baseball teams suggested that additional talent did, however, normally result in improved performance. Swaab concluded that basketball which required more intra-team coordination and, consequently, too much talent had an adverse effect on teamwork. While such research is interesting, it would be important to consider how well the leader was in building an effective team. Berra had great talent on his team during the World Series. Still many baseball historians believe he was not able to dampen internal dissension on his team, and the Yankees ultimately lost the World Series.

A successful leader is a successful team builder. He or she has to balance their efforts between finding the best talent, developing that talent, retaining that talent, and insuring that the members of the team work together effectively. Recently a corporate executive observed that healthy organizations have a turnover rate that is below 10 percent. If the turnover rate exceeds 15 to 20 percent there is likely something wrong with the organizational culture that indicates a subpar performing team.

Good teams are collaborative and allow their members to make decisions. They also accept that mistakes may be learning experiences. Consequently, leaders of such organizations look for indicators that an individual is a “team players” and willing to collaborate when they hire new members. In this regard another executive was asked about her interview and hiring practices. She related that when she was conducting interviews she would tell the receptionist to offer every candidate a glass of water and ask them to be seated. After the interview she would talk to the receptionist about how the interviewee reacted and how he or she treated the receptionist. Clearly, she wanted to know if even in a stressful moment did the person being considered show courtesy to his or her prospective teammates.

Finally, building teams means not only finding talented people but also looking for those who remain curious. The effective leader wants the members of the team to seek self-improvement and have a desire to be mentored by the most talented members of the organization. They provide necessary resources, seek to create a climate that encourages mentorship/collaboration throughout the organization, and make this a topic of discussion during team meetings as well as individual counseling.

Jim Collins in his remarkable book, Good to Great, perhaps best described the challenge of teambuilding today. Collins suggested that the leader is like a bus driver. One of their primary jobs is to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and everyone sitting in the right seat.

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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. 

CBS News – U.S. mission to rescue refugees unlikely

On a recent episode of CBS’s “Up to the Minute” Diamond6 CEO Jeff McCausland provided some keen insights into the current problems that the Iraqi military faces, especially in light of the strengthened ISIS forces. Jeff also discussed the challenges faced by refugees and the United States governments, proffering some enlightening thoughts on how the situation is developing. Take a minute and follow the link here to hear Jeff’s thoughts on the situation.

 

Jeff Up to the Minute

Leadership for What?

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.” Eleanor Roosevelt

I frequently begin leadership workshops with the following question: “how do you define leadership?” I find this an intriguing way to start a conversation as it gets a new group to begin to think about this complex topic and it ignites a broad discussion. In response you could Google the word “leadership”, but you will get a large and varied number of definitions.
After a while I tell the group that I prefer the definition provided by President Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower once observed, “Leadership is the ability to decide what has to be done, and then get people to want to do it.” I find this particularly fascinating. Eisenhower was one of only a handful of five star generals in the history of our nation and subsequently served two terms as President. He was also President of Columbia University. You might imagine that having held these lofty positions Ike would have been use to just giving orders and expecting them to be carried out immediately and vigorously. But he was wise enough to realize that to get the maximum effort from any follower or team meant getting them to want to do it.
Still this definition fails to answer a second fundamental question: leadership for what purpose? Why bother? I think the answer to this question is simply – to make a difference. Good leaders want their organizations to succeed, and they want the members of the team to succeed as well. They want the organization to provide a valuable service or product while conforming to a set of values that both they and their employees can identify and be proud of.
I recently came across a piece of poetry that in many ways sums up my belief on what is leadership for. It is entitled To Be of Use and is written by Marge Piercy who is an American poet, novelist, and social activist. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Gone to Soldier, a sweeping historical novel set during World War II.

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Good leaders want to be individually useful, and they also seek to make the organizations they head useful to others. They are people of courage who are willing to take risks to accomplish this goal. This reminds me of the comments of another famous American president, Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt delivered a speech at the Sorbonne in Paris on 23 April 1910. On page seven of the thirty-five page speech is the following passage which is commonly referred to as The Man in the Arena:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Many leaders have used this quote since. Nelson Mandela gave a copy of it to Francois Pienaar, captain of the South African rugby team, before the start of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, in which the South African side eventually defeated the heavily favor New Zealand All Blacks.

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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. – See more at: https://diamondsixleadership.com/2013/06/18/leading-during-a-crisis/#sthash.dkVxspZT.dpuf

The Doomed?

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

George Santayana’s enduring quote has been seen, or heard, by many of us since we were in secondary school. Understanding these words is one thing, but understanding, learning and acting based on this statement could be the single act of courage that transforms a leader from ordinary to extraordinary.

History is replete with the names of leaders who “set the example” they demanded their colleagues follow. Hitler, Saddam Hussein, James Jones, Kenneth Lay, Bernie Madoff. But these “leaders” lacked important qualities — ethics and integrity. How might history have been different if enough courageous people in these circumstances had stood together against the tide?  While that takes extraordinary fortitude on the part of the participant, is there a viable, acceptable alternative? Martin Luther King said about a particularly challenging period in our national growth, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

A modicum of research provides us with examples of leadership failures AND of leadership successes. Taking inventory of the characteristics of some of the greatest leaders of all time, you will see that the following characteristics apply “across the board”:

Communication
Courage
Flexibility
Respect
Humility
Mentoring
Ambition
Vision
Integrity
Passion
Coaching
Accountability

 

 

 

So, in the end, what is our choice? History gives us the lens to clearly see what has previously shaped calamity and success. History provides us with the opportunity to make choices that might sometimes be called “the harder right.” With the evidence readily available before us, the question that begs asking is:

Who among us is doomed and who has the courage to transform?

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Gary Steele is a retired colonel and current senior consultant for Learning Dynamic. He has over thirty years of extensive national and international human resources experience as a leader, problem solver, and project manager, stemming from the  military, education, and pharmaceutical industry sectors.

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Understanding Lincoln – Presidents at War: Conflicts with Generals

If you hadn’t heard, our colleague and resident Abraham Lincoln expert Matt Pinsker has been conducting an incredible on-line course titled “Understanding Lincoln.” Diamond6 CEO Jeff McCausland was asked to participate. This most recent session focused the conflicts Lincoln faced with his generals. The responses to the discussion from grateful teachers has been incredible so far, all of them along the lines of this excerpt:

– “I thought yesterday’s discussion was incredibly intelligent.”

Jeff has had a great time participating in these sessions and can’t wait to take part in the last discussion Wednesday, July 9 at 10 am EST. Please take a moment and watch the video embedded below.

Understanding Lincoln

Our colleague and resident Abraham Lincoln expert Matt Pinsker is conducting an incredible on-line course titled “Understanding Lincoln.” Diamond6 CEO Jeff McCausland was asked to participate. The responses to the discussion from grateful teachers has been incredible. We’ve included some below:

– “Wow!!! Great Session!!!! Best Ever!!!!  I learned so much and I have watched it again after the live presentation. I can never thank you enough for the education I get from your amazing vision on how to make better teachers in our country. It was just a big fat WOW today!!!”

– “Thank you for reading my question – how thrilling to watch a panel of experts discuss my thoughts! I really enjoyed the round table from beginning to end!”

We think the exclamation points say it all. Jeff had a great time participating in this Presidential War Powers session and can’t wait to take part in the next one on January 25 at 10 am EST. Please take a moment and watch the video embedded below.