Leadership is the art of influencing people, which requires delegation to be effective. Delegation is the art or process of assigning specific duties and responsibilities to subordinates in an organization. Delegation comes in different forms and leaders must be familiar with these forms in order to make good delegation decisions.
One such form is what I call general delegation, which means leaders delegate responsibilities as a way of training the next generation of leaders in their organizations. This delegation is important because it helps preserve the mission and vision of the organization. Another form is crisis delegation, where the leaders delegate duties and responsibilities to subordinates when a crisis, such as when a leader is absent from the organization for a prolonged time (e.g hospitalized or attending to a sick relative). Therefore, leaders must delegate responsibilities and duties during times of crisis in order for the organization to continue operating. It is important to remember that, with the delegation of duties, the leader who delegates is still responsible and accountable for the delegated duties. Any mistakes or errors committed by subordinates when carrying out the delegated duties still rest with that leader.
When leaders delegate some of their responsibilities and duties, they benefit in some ways from the process. First, delegating tasks removes some of the duties from the leaders; subordinates perform these duties so leaders can concentrate in areas where the organization will benefit most, like the negotiation of contracts that benefit the whole organization. Second, by delegating tasks leaders can groom future leaders because subordinates will learn how the organization works at a higher level; when it is time for the subordinate to take over, they will have already learned the necessary skills for the positions. Third, delegation, when done properly, will raise the morale of subordinates in the organization because it will show them that the leadership believes that they can be trusted to do delegated work. Fourth, proper delegation also improves trust between subordinates and leadership which tends to lead to a cohesive organization. Fifth, when duties are delegated to subordinates, efficiency increases because duties are given to people whose skills match the delegated duties, thereby freeing time for the leader to concentrate on other important duties of the organization. For example, there is no reason for a leader to be keeping daily records of who is reporting to work when that work can be done by subordinates with expressed instructions to report the progress back to the leader.
Delegation is not always easy for some leaders; there are many reasons as to why they fear to do it. First, they are afraid of being outshined by the subordinates who performs the delegated work well. Because of this, leaders find it difficult to delegate. Second, some leaders fear that they will not be recognized for the work done by the subordinates and, thus, refuse to delegate. Recognition is important for moving up the leadership ladders in some organizations. Third, some leaders refuse to delegate because they fear that they will lose the trained subordinate to a rival organization that might use that subordinate to compete with the leader’s organization. Fourth, some leaders fear to delegate because they feel that something important has been removed from their responsibilities. As a result, they keep all their duties. Fifth, some leaders in organizations develop preconceived ideas about subordinates that prevents them from delegating duties and responsibilities to them. It is a sad situation, but it happens in some organizations and hinders the cohesiveness of the organization. In the long term, such thinking affects productivity. Sixth, the fear of being exposed as a leader who does not understand his/her job can cause a leader to limit the delegation of duties until he/she acquires the competence needed in the position. No leader wants to be exposed by subordinates for not understanding how the organization runs. Seventh, in some organizations, there is a shortage of staff shortage, so leaders keep all duties and responsibilities that pertain to their jobs. Eighth, some leaders fear that if they delegate responsibilities and duties to subordinates, they will lose control of them because they will know too much of what goes on in the organization, causing top leadership to ignores directives from the leader. What this kind of leader forgets is that those delegated duties eventually land on his/her desk for approval, which means such fear is unfounded. Ninth, in some organizations staff tend to be lazy, which makes leaders not want to delegate some of their responsibilities to them out of fear that they will not manage those duties well. Finally, inadequate training of staff also tends to make leaders fear delegating some responsibilities to subordinates because they think they will not do the delegated duties as per the instructions given.
To be effective in the delegation of duties and responsibilities leaders must do the following. First, they must give clear instructions on what should be done for the delegated duties and, when they are completed, to whom to report. Second, leaders must avoid over delegating their responsibilities because they might be perceived as over relying on the subordinates for the accomplishment of organizational duties. It might also affect the performance of subordinates. Third, leaders must always praise their subordinates when they successfully complete the delegated duties and tasks. Such praise tends to boost subordinates’ morale at the work place, thereby increasing productivity. Fourth, micro-managing the subordinates when duties and responsibilities have been delegated will increase mistrust because the subordinates will think that the leader does not have confidence in them to complete the assigned tasks. Therefore, leaders must at all times avoid micro-managing the subordinates to whom they delegate responsibilities and instead should monitor them from a far. Fifth, effective delegation requires leaders to provide adequate information on the duties and responsibilities of the delegated positions so that the subordinates will perform the duties efficiently. Sixth, when delegating duties, leaders must ensure that subordinates do not fear anything will happen to them if the delegated duties are not performed at an acceptable level. They must reassure subordinates that the failure to reach the acceptable level will be a teachable moment for them to improve as they repeat the same duties. Removing the fear will encourage subordinates to perform well without the fear of retribution. Seventh, for leaders to know how subordinates are doing in their delegated duties and responsibilities, they should always request feedback from them in order to monitor their progress. In requesting feedback, the leaders will know when corrections are needed or where more resources are required for better performance of the delegated duties and responsibilities. Finally, before duties are actually delegated, subordinates must be trained on them. Without proper training, subordinates will be hesitant to take up delegated responsibilities due to a fear of failure.
As a social function, delegation is based on the trust that leaders have in their subordinates that they will accomplish the delegated duties successfully. Yet it remains a calculated risk, as delegation does not guarantee success on the delegated duties. On the other hand, for leaders to be successful and effective in running organizations efficiently, delegation is necessary. Without delegation, leaders might be overwhelmed by duties that might be done well by subordinates’, thereby freeing time for them to concentrate on other duties that might benefit the organization.
*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net
Leadership is the art of influencing people, which requires delegation to be effective. Delegation is the art or process of assigning specific duties and responsibilities to subordinates in an organization. Delegation comes in different forms and leaders must be familiar with these forms in order to make good delegation decisions. One such form is what I call gDr. Obed Nyaribo, DBA Articles
“Today, no leader can afford to be indifferent to the challenge of engaging employees in the work of creating the future. Engagement may have been optional in the past, but it's pretty much the whole game today.” ~Gary Hamel
According to a 2014 Gallup poll less than one-third (31.5%) of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2014. While that is up from the previous year and the highest since Gallup began tracking engagement, the flip side is that the majority of employees are not engaged and according to the poll 14.5% were “actively disengaged”.
The Gallup poll went on to say that the highest engagement was amongst managers and executive officers and had increased over 2013 from 34.7% to 38.4%. This means that 61.6% are either not engaged or actively disengaged. So what is the effect of this disengagement on front line employees?
A 2013 survey by recruitment agency Staffbay.com found that 87.2% of employees wanted to leave their current role within 12 months and a study by Harris Interactive indicated that 74% of people would consider leaving their job. While these studies were done in 2013 they are still relevant considering the economy and job market is considerably better now than it was then. It is important to also keep in mind that talented employees are always in demand and those are the ones who will leave first.
Where does manager engagement fit into this picture? If we look at the Staffbay survey, 52.6% of their respondents said they would leave because they did not trust their boss. A CareerBuilder survey said that 37% had poor opinions of their boss, and a recent Gallup study reported that about 50% of the more than 7K surveyed said they left a job “to get away from their manager.” Clearly there is a problem with today’s management, but what is the solution?
Identify & Select
“I think that if you ask what's made us successful, it's because we've been fortunate enough to identify, in a number of cases, great people early. Then we throw all the resources behind them and are aligned with them.” ~Dan Levitan
Poor or bad managers cost companies billions because they directly impact employee engagement and turnover. The first problem is that companies tend to select individuals to manage instead of lead. Anyone can be a manager, but being a leader takes a completely different skillset. Getting the work done and making the numbers are important but they are not the end all be all because those costs are easy to measure. What is harder to measure is the lost potential productivity by employees who are disengaged by their poor manager and the staggering cost of turnover. Instead of selecting managers based solely on their ability to get the work done or make the “numbers”, companies need to define what skills make for good leaders and select based on a mix.
Train & Develop
Once the individual with the right mix of leadership and management skill is identified and hired the work must continue with robust training and development. Too often, after hiring a manager the individual left to their own devices and then senior management wonders why they have so many problems or their great hire failed. It cannot be assumed just because someone knows how to land the sale they know how to lead other people. Leadership is learned and if a person has never had good leadership they can’t be expected to know what it looks like. New managers need to have a structured process to develop them into strong leaders.
“Accountability breeds response-ability.” ~Stephen Covey
It seems simple but it holding people accountable seems to be one of the biggest challenges for organizations because accountability really starts with setting clear expectations. Setting clear expectations involves more than just stating what you want the end result to be, it also involves clarifying the how, when, and what happens if the expectation is not met. Finally it involves actually following through and holding the individual accountable. This should be truer for leaders as they set the example for everyone else.
“Not everything that can be measured matters and not everything that matters can be measured.” ~Einstein
Metrics are important but only if value and action comes from them. Something must be done with the data that is collected. Their tends to be two extremes when it comes to metrics, either nothing is being measured and thus opportunities for improvement and re-alignment are being missed, or everything is being counted but nothing is being done with the data because there is either too much or it has just become an exercise in collection for collections sake.
When it comes to leadership metrics the first step is to define what counts and then separate them from other business metrics like financials etc. The second step is to define how they will be used. Here it is important not to fall in the trap of collecting data for collections sake but actually using it.
All of these things should yield results in the form of employee retention and satisfaction. Those things will in turn result in greater productivity and a better bottom line. It all starts with identifying the right leaders. Develop them so that they are actively engaged. Expect them to set the right example. Establish metrics that count and hold them accountable.
*Image courtesy of cooldesign/freedigitalphotos.net
Many managers believe that it is enough to show up and be seen, but then this is why I refer to them as managers and not leaders. Leadership require more than just showing up, it requires engagement; but if a manager doesn’t know what engagement looks like chances are they are missing opportunities to move from manager to leader.
In a recent GALLUP article by Randall Beck and Jim Harter, they state that only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged and cite managers for being the primary cause. While every manager may not be a great leader it would be remiss to assume they don’t want to be and it is more likely that they don’t know how to be a great leader.
So what is a manager to do? Here are 5 simple things they can start doing right away to be more engaged.
1. Say good morning. When is the last time you walked around and said good morning to all of your employees? It seems simple, and it is, yet many leaders come in and head straight for their office. If you can do it every day great, if not, try for once a week. If you say “Good morning, have a great day.” It will have an amazing effect on your employees.
2. Recognize and Compliment. Don’t assume your employees know they are doing a good job; tell them! Look for opportunities to recognize the contributions your employees make to the organization and not just the big ones, the small ones count too. Remember, no news is not always good news.
3. Meet one on one. If there is one thing you need to start doing if you’re not already is to meet with your employee’s one on one. Have them schedule 15-30 minutes with you weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Make the time about them, not you by always asking questions like: What are you working on; what are your roadblocks, what can I do for you; what should I stop doing.
4. Walk around and ask questions. I don’t mean “what are you working on” or “what the status of X project is”, ask questions to make a personal connection. “How was your weekend ”,“How are your kids/spouse/significant other”. Leaders need to be seen and that lends itself to making personal connections with your employees. As with number one, you may not be able to do it every day but you should do it at least once a week. Put it on your calendar.
5. Listen more, talk less. You cannot speak and listen at the same time, listening takes effort and focus. Apply this to 1-4 and you will be well on your way to better engagement with your employees.
Remember that if you want to have engaged employees you have to be an engaged leader. The more engaged you are with them, the more engaged they will be and the less likely they are to leave you and the organization.
*Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Many managers believe that it is enough to show up and be seen, but then this is why I refer to them as managers and not leaders. Leadership require more than just showing up, it requires engagement; but if a manager doesn’t know what engagement looks like chances are they are missing opportunities to move from manager to leader. In a recentAnthony T. Eaton Articles Employee relations
The demands on leaders can be many and they are often pulled in multiple directions at once. Having employees that work for you helps you to get things done and takes some of the burden off, but it also brings with it a great responsibility and new set of expectations and needs. Employees need things from their leaders and it is not just more work.
Here are six things that I believe all employees need their leaders to be.
Everyone wants to know where they stand and how they are doing. If things are great sing their praises; if things aren’t great let them know. No one likes surprises and or wants to have to guess. Feedback is an ongoing activity not just a once a year activity that occurs with annual reviews or when there are complaints.
You may not be able to tell your employees everything but be as honest and transparent as you can and if you can’t share information let them know why. Why goes a long way.
Going hand in hand with honesty you need to be a communicator and able to provide feedback, information and direction. Employees want to know what is going on, what is coming up, what to expect and what is expected of them. Information is everything and no one wants to feel like they are in the dark.
Obviously you have to be committed to the business and organizations goals but it doesn’t end there; you have to be committed to your team and people individually.
You have to set the direction for your team and be committed to it while balancing the goals of the organization and aspirations of your team members all while being committed to helping them achieve them.
The workplace can easily become negative. Remember we spend more time with the people we work with than our own family so there is bound to be some strife. Work can also be hard, that is why it is called work.
Deadlines, demands and sheer volume will take its toll. You need to remember that your employees are people; they have lives outside of the office and no matter how we all try to separate the two, when things are hard in our personal lives it makes it hard in our professional life as well. Try to know and understand what your employees are faced with and potentially going through.
The key is to be able to take a positive approach to working through things and not letting negativity permeate the workplace.
Employees want you to be confident; even if you don’t feel confident you need to project confidence. Knowing that the person at the helm can steer the ship or at least believes they can, instills confidence in the crew. Everyone knows leaders don’t have all the answers and can’t solve all the problems but if they know you have the confidence to try and find the answers and help solve the problems it will instill confidence in them. This leads us to the last thing on my list.
We all want to be inspired but inspiration does not always come easy; a fire needs a spark. We all have to do those things that we would rather not do, but what makes that easier knowing you get to do the things you really enjoy.
Find out what your employee’s strengths are then leverage them. Also find out what their goals and aspirations are, encourage them and help them however you can. Take a genuine interest in them beyond just being their boss. No one wants to feel like they are just a means to an end.
Finally remember that your employees are always looking at the way you handle things and how you lead. Let your leadership be inspirational because you may be helping to create future leaders.
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The demands on leaders can be many and they are often pulled in multiple directions at once. Having employees that work for you helps you to get things done and takes some of the burden off, but it also brings with it a great responsibility and new set of expectations and needs. Employees need things from their leaders and it is not just more work. Here are six thingsAnthony T. Eaton Articles
Gaining traction in 2015 is more than just being in the game, but adjusting organizational mindset and culture to perform better this year while concurrently advancing their organizations to the future is not unprecedented. Strategic leaders use an array of techniques to lead, manage, and innovate in their organizations. But advancing a concept beyond kitchen table pontification or the board conference room sessions requires strategic leadership, strategic planning, but more importantly strategic thinking. Strategic thinking refers to cognitive processes required for the collection, interpretation, generation, and evaluation of information and ideas that shape an organization’s sustainable competitive advantage (Hughes & Beatty, 2005). Strategic thinking is an intrinsic process whereby a person discerns, envisions, and formulates his ideas into the components necessary to accomplish a notable task.
The top management team at Apple demonstrated a successful track record of strategic thinking in innovation and technology. Kluyver and Pearce (2012) highlight Apple as one of the most innovative companies in the world. In a survey of executives around the world for Business Week, Apple has been ranked at the top of the most innovative companies rankings since 2005 (Einhorn & Arndt, 2010). Strategic thinking focuses on finding and developing unique opportunities to create value by enabling a provocative and creative dialogue among people who can affect an organization’s direction (CFAR, 2001).
Although strategic thinking and strategic planning work well together, they each possess unique attributes. Yukl (2012) describes strategic planning as being facilitated by a comprehensive, objective evaluation of current performance in relation to strategic objectives and compared to the performance of competition. Whereas strategic thinking serves as the input to strategic planning; good strategic thinking uncovers potential opportunities for creating value and challenges assumptions about a company’s value proposition, so that when the plan is created, it targets these opportunities (CFAR, 2001). According to Almani and Esfaghansary (2011), strategic thinking is different from strategic planning because strategic planning seeks the one best way to devise and implement strategies that would that enhance the competitiveness of an organization or unit within it. Strategic thinking serves as the central ‘ingredient’ in preparing for any task. The point being made is strategic thinking begins with exploration of the environment, an intuitive, visual, creative process that results in a combination of emerging themes, issues, patterns, connections, and opportunities (Sanders, 1998), whereby strategic planning is the creation of a unique position involving a distinct set of activities (Montgomery, 2012).
As we examine the attributes of strategic thinking, it has two major components: insight about the present and foresight about the future (Sanders, 1998). Traditionally, successful leaders are carried by style, driven by motivation, or interlace in leadership style and motivation as a powerful source to make things happen. When we consider what it means to be a leader in the twenty-first century and how leaders will impact the major changes that lie ahead, strategic thinking is an influential capability. The focus of strategic leadership rest in individuals and team who think, act, and influence in ways that promote the sustainable competitive advantage of the organization (Hughes & Betty, 2005). We use the term strategic leadership because it connotes management of an overall enterprise, not just a small unit; it also implies substantive decision-making responsibilities, beyond the interpersonal and relational aspects usually associate with leadership (Finkelstein et al, 2009). According to Finkelstein et al, the global furniture company IKEA would not look the way it does today if not for the philosophy and values of its founder and long-time CEO, Ingvar Kamprad. Wayne Gretzky, recognized as the world’s best hockey player, says that the key to his success is that he doesn’t skate toward the puck, but instead tries to anticipate where it’s going and get there ahead of it (Sanders, 1998). The same thing could be said about great leaders, they anticipate where change is going and make sure their organizations get there first (Sanders, 1998).
5 Keys to Remember to Transform into a Strategic Thinker
Hughes and Beatty (2005) asserts one of the challenges to developing your strategic thinking id that historically organizations have tended not to encourage and reinforce the two complimentary sides of strategic thinking with anything like equality. Cultivate your strategic thinking in 2013 with a conscious effort to tap the aspects of strategic thinking (Hughes & Beatty, 2005):
1. Scanning – involves assessing where the organization is. This involves examining the organization’s current strategic situation, and it includes an analysis of the opportunities and threats in the industry as well as the strengths and weaknesses inside the organization (Hughes & Beatty, 2005).
2. Visioning – represents a view of what the organization (or a department, group, or other unit) can and should become. Andy Stanley (1999) suggests vision weaves passion, motivation, direction, and purpose into the fabric of the leader’s daily life.
3. Reframing – involves the ability to see things differently, including new ways of thinking about an organization’s strategic challenges and basic capabilities (Hughes & Beatty, 2005). It involves questioning or restating the implicit beliefs and assumptions that are often granted by organizational members (Hughes & Beatty, 2005).
4. Systems Thinking – Effective strategic thinkers are able to discern the interrelationships among different variables in a complex situation (Hughes & Beatty, 2005). The basic premise of systems thinking is to habitually review the best logical approach to all situations, current and future (Hughes & Beatty, 2005).
5. Focus – Aubrey Malphurs (2013) advises that “focus” literally means to focus your attention on a specific interest or activity, see clearly with an objective or object in mind or pay particular attention to a place or thing. Focus for a leader (at any level) looks something like: building a plan to remain focused on, delegating the tasks related to the plan and encouraging those around you to do things with an eye always on the goal; this way…everyone will be focused (Malphurs, 2013).
No matter how much the world continues to change, the strategic thinker will be the key player in organizations around the world. Adopting strategic thinking as a lifestyle leadership attribute will serve leaders as an attuned compass that will facilitate their journey into leading people and organizations down the road through the future. Strategic thinkers are continually wanted to assist organizations with managing challenges, progressing beyond its current status, innovation, and the competitive advantage in their industry.
About the Author
J. K. Smith is an independent consultant and doctoral student at Regent University’s School of Business and Leadership. He earned a M.A. from Liberty University, a B.S. from Excelsior College, and a B.A. from Southwestern College. He is a decorated combat veteran and retired from the U.S. Army.
*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Strategic Thinking Gaining traction in 2015 is more than just being in the game, but adjusting organizational mindset and culture to perform better this year while concurrently advancing their organizations to the future is not unprecedented. Strategic leaders use an array of techniques to lead, manage, and innovate in their organizations. BuJ. K Smith Articles
Leaders are transitioning into the global arena at a greater frequency than ever before. This is the ideal time to address how to approach this transitioning. This article will briefly describe the utilization of cross-cultural transitioning as opposed to mere cross-border transitioning.
It has been stated again and again: most organizations are more global than local. When one considers the vendors with which an organization deals or the employees they hire or the software they utilize, there is a global flavor and dimension to even the smallest enterprise. However, there are legitimate events that occur that cause organizations to begin planning to take their actual operations global. Rising costs of resources, transportation issues, political conflicts, fluid tax regulations and an impoverished talent pool are but a few of the obstacles that may best be overcome by crossing business borders and becoming a truly global organization.
Crossing business borders as well as cultural borders may seem to be a daunting task when it is first approached. That need not be so. Moving to global operations requires some fundamental actions on the part of the manager(s) involved, but it can be accomplished. Briefly, consider the broad, sweeping moves that will be necessary when beginning the new global initiative. Why change operations at all? Identify the reasons behind the global expansion. Reduced transportation costs from factory to end user are a real concern; becoming global just because IBM is global is not a justifiable cause. Where shall the new operations be located? There’s no point in setting up the latest factory in Bangladesh if your customer base is in Switzerland; try moving a little closer. Bangladeshi prices may be just wonderfully affordable but the cost of getting product to consumer will be astronomical — donkeys have to eat as well. Is there a talent resource pool that can be easily accessed or do you have to know the Prince’s son-in-law to get the best people? These are but some of the logistical questions that must be answered when expanding globally. However, global expansion is much more than just spending the money and setting up shop in another land. The remainder of this article will address the most important aspect of global organizational expansion: the cultural crossing.
While crossing business borders can be daunting enough (remember those donkeys), crossing cultural borders is infinitely more exciting, challenging, and rewarding. Nuance plays such a critical role here. Glances and gestures, the position of the eyes or the posture of the body can all be communicative devices if one knows what it all means. Unfortunately, for most North American business people, these things mean nothing; only direct confrontation makes sense. This is understandable as these are the cultural lenses through which most North Americans peer. Though North Americans seem dominant on the global stage; this is often a cultural misunderstanding. In North American business schools and cultures, one is taught to be direct in communication with others. Those who work specifically for one manager are often referred to as “directs.” However, being direct in this manner will often derail an intercultural business proposition before it ever has the opportunity to be examined. In truth, one of the best instructions for North Americans breeching the cultural walls of global business is to “close mouth and listen.”
Having drive and initiative is often a highly desired trait in business. Initiative can actually erect barriers as one enters into global business relationships. Firoz, Maghrabi, and Kim, state, “research indicates that most management techniques are not portable and that cultural-specific training is desperately needed within the ranks of multinational organizations.” In other words, leaders do not rise to the place of global leadership without developing certain techniques that work for them in their current management arena, yet these very techniques may need to be “un-learned,” and new techniques developed in the global business scope. Communication is one place where this variance is clearly noted. Many people in other cultures operate in a “shame” or “face-saving” manner. Direct disagreement will virtually never occur as this may cause the new manager to lose face and cause the direct report to lose face if she is wrong. Instead, indirect communication is likely to take place. For example, the direct report may refer to a non-existent third party in order to place any possible shame on a party that cannot be injured. Again, remaining silent and listening often prove to be the very best means of leading.
Beginning an international venture is much like returning to college. One often learns the most by remaining silent, taking careful notes and practicing excellent listening skills. Additionally, developing intimate relationships with “locals” will give one a mentor to which to turn prior to making a cultural misstep. Global leaders “consciously seek out a sophisticated understanding of how complex data fit together, an understanding that has to be lived, not taught.” Global leaders will value the additional education that is needed to success on this level and will earnestly pursue opportunities that will allow them to improve their global “I.Q.” “Global leaders observe, deliberate, and ponder. They know that reflection, or meditative thinking, ‘does not just happen by itself.’”(Ibid, p 58) It is out of this observation and reflection that global leaders grow and eventually succeed.
By being inquisitive and committed to continual learning, the global leader takes charge of her success and direction. She continually seeks to know more about the culture she inhabits and compares those studies to that which she currently practices. This only happens with intentionality. The global leader understands that “the learning process of individuals in a cross-cultural context requires the creative destruction of barriers to learning and the broadening of access to new sources of knowledge and experience.” Destroying the barriers to learning is often no more than opening up oneself to that which is unfamiliar and agreeing to examine it from the understanding that a difference in leading does not necessarily indicate an inherent wrongness in either approach. It is vitally important for the global leader to allow herself to be a sponge for absorbing the information and cultural clues that will present themselves as she observes the characteristics of doing business in her new culture. By not allowing oneself to exhibit prejudice for one’s own business acumen and understanding that there are numerous ways of doing things across the world; a global leader will develop into one whose specialty is the reinterpretation of techniques so that they may cross cultural barriers and borders. Herein lays the value of the truly global leader: that she can adapt the strategies and policies of her global corporation to the culture in which business is conducted without diluting the strategy or denigrating the culture.
Unending learning will be the global executive’s lifelong associate, servant and guide. It is impossible to place a value on the outcomes that will arise out of this commitment to learning. Developing this habit of continual learning; learning to be found in every circumstance and not halls of education alone, will lead to success in every aspect of life: business, family, and faith. The path toward global leadership must begin at the restructuring of assumptions. One does not reach this level of executive success by virtue of technique, but by a propensity to know what one knows and what one does not know. This follows along the lines of Kolb’s research (1984) concerning experiential learning theory (ELT). “[One] reason to enlist ELT to understand cross-cultural learning lies in its focus on the interactive nature of person and environment in the learning process.” It seems simplistic but often global executive development is of the nature of “diving in and finding out.”
To summarize, the global executive faces one of the most exciting and enduring experiences available to business leaders: that of experiencing a culture different from one’s own and learning to develop one’s technique and style of management within the context of a culture composed of people, laws, governments, and structures that are different by far from what one knows. With this exciting opportunity come challenges and barriers to try the hearts of the strongest individual. By combining the traits of effective listening, experiential learning, inquisitiveness, relational development and pre-developed business and management skills; the global executive will be one of those fortunate few who truly can leave an impression in the global landscape by virtue of their presence. The first step is to close mouth and open ears allowing one to be influenced by her new culture prior to her influencing said culture. There are very few more rewarding experiences than to transform oneself from the selfish and prototypical American business executive into a global executive success.
About the author:
Ralph Johnson is a student at Regent University
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 Firoz, Nadeem, Ahmad S. Maghrabi, and Ki Hee Kim. “Think Globally, Manage Culturally” International Journal of Commerce and Management, 2002, Vol.12 No. 3 & 4.
 Black, J. Stewart, Allen J. Morrison, and Hal B. Gregersen, Global Explorers: The Next Generation of Leaders, New York: Routledge, 1999. Page 56
 Gahfoor, Shahzad, Fukhaia Kaka Khail, Uzair Farooq Khan, and Faiza Hassan, “An Exploratory Analysis of Experiential Narratives and Implications for Management, Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, June 2011, Vol 3 No 2
 Yamazaki, Yoshitaka and D. Christopher Kayes, “An Experiential Approach to Cross-Cultural Learning: A Review and Integration of Competencies for Successful Expatriate Adaptation,: Academy of Management Learning and Education, 2004, Vol 3 No 4.
Leaders are transitioning into the global arena at a greater frequency than ever before. This is the ideal time to address how to approach this transitioning. This article will briefly describe the utilization of cross-cultural transitioning as opposed to mere cross-border transitioning. It has been stated again and again: most organizations are more global thaRalph E. Johnson
Strategic thinking is a knowledge acquisition process that connects and involves every component and department of an organization by defining the direction of the organization, how it construes its strategy into execution, how it reassesses the organization’s direction, and then fine tuning its path.[i] Organizational leaders who seek to develop successful organizations and ultimately work towards long-term success and sustainability would benefit from adopting strategic thinking and planning skills.
Traditionally, strategic thinking and planning is allied with high level and top leadership teams with an organization.[ii] When a leader applies new thoughts, procedures, and processes to guide the persuasion of organizational members and its components towards the advancement of the organization, the leader is said to be practicing strategic thinking.[iii] Strategic thinking therefore considers the ‘now’ to be able to obtain imminent insight into the future.[iv] When a leader(s) employs activities that direct the organization towards an innovative and competitive arena in today’s internationally aggressive marketplace this includes strategic thinking. Thus, leaders who work towards finding unconventional ways to compete and provide client value are said to be practicing strategic thinking. Such leaders are able to indentify exceptional approaches to provide value to their clients. Strategic thinking is more of an indefinable, methodical, and future oriented activity for leaders.[v] Leaders who are looking for ways to formulate winning strategies for their organizations must consider using strategic thinking as a vehicle.[vi]
Traditional strategic planning relies on systematic processes to ascertain who the organization is in terms of its mission, what the organization does in terms of its believes, where the organization is headed in terms of its vision, and how the organization intends to get there in terms of planning[vii] while strategic thinking centers on mental processes essential for use of information and ideas which form an organization’s prospective direction.[viii] Strategic thinking makes available input for the strategic planning process through ground-breaking opportunities[ix] to enhance the organization’s performance and accomplishments. Strategic planning searches for means to create a new outline of the organization’s direction by adopting a novel and enhanced prospect.[x]
Questions Arose From the Strategic Thinking and Planning Literature
The following questions arose from the literature review based on strategic thinking and planning:
*What do you consider to be your strongest leadership qualities?
*Would you say you possess strategic leadership qualities? If so, mention a few?
*What is the vision of your organization?
*Are your staff/followers familiar with this vision?
*In what ways would you say your staff/followers are supportive of the vision?
*Have you taken part in a strategic planning process as a leader?
*If so, what time frame is adopted for the strategic planning and implementation process of your organization (monthly, quarterly, annually)?
*In your opinion, what is strategic thinking?
*Which strategic thinking and planning skills are necessary for a successful process?
*Which strategic thinking and planning tools do you use for your planning and implementation process?
*What obstacles do you consider as a hindrance to the practice and implementation of strategic thinking and planning within your organization?
*What systems do you have in place to assist you as a leader in identifying strategic thinkers within your organization?
*As a leader, do you use a strategic team? If so, how do you choose your team members?
*What would you consider as your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
*What strategies do you rely on to combat perceived weaknesses and threats to/within your organization?
*What specific tools do you rely on to determine the progress and growth of your organization?
*Please mention and explain 5 trends you perceive as having the potential to impact the long-term performance and success of your organization?
The first leader I chose to meet with was Matthew S. Essieh. Matthew is the president and chief executive officer of an information technology firm called EAI Information Systems located in Beaverton, Oregon. As a visionary leader,[xi] Matthew began his company from scratch 20 years ago. The company develops and modifies software solutions to assist financial service firms in controlling their retail investment programs for superior effectiveness and productivity.
Karen Howells was the second leader I chose to interview. Karen is the president and founder of the Howell’s Group, Inc.; a consulting firm in Portland, Oregon. Karen and her business focus on bringing ‘business to life’ through an exclusive and extremely tailored approach. Karen is a great communicator, a coach and a visionary.[xii]
The third leader interviewed was John T. Goldrick, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Life at the University of Portland. John oversees all student services including admissions, financial aid, student activities, judicial affairs, international student issues, career services, the Moreau Center for Service and Leadership, residential life, campus, ministry, health services, and public safety. John is a great strategist, a visionary and a great communicator.[xiii]
Responses from Leaders
What do you consider to be your strongest leadership qualities?
According to Matthew Essieh, his strongest leadership qualities include initiative and drive. Matthew reported he is driven internally; action oriented, allows other to follow, develops creative solutions to solve problems, and does not allow perceived problems to stand in his way. Karen Howells mentioned she connects quickly and authentically with clients, has the ability to motivate and influence others to get things done, is able to articulate a vision and inspires others to perform. John Goldrick loves to lead change, manages his employees well, has good intuition when hiring, has experience, works to keep his followers in the spotlight, and considers himself to be allocentric; more follower-centered than leader-centered. John stated he does not look for conflict, but at the same time, does not shy away from it.
Would you say you possess strategic leadership qualities? If so, mention a few?
Each leader I interviewed believes they possess strategic leadership qualities. According to Matthew Essieh, the fact that he founded his company 20 years ago is a sign of possessing strategic leadership qualities. He stated he focuses on broader decision-making without being ‘bogged’ down by details or initiatives. Therefore, he focuses on the broader positive implications of what has to be done. According Matthew, he has always had the vision to own businesses in the United States and he has achieved that vision. Karen Howells’ feels she is able to scan the social and economic environment in order to be in touch with her clients, is pragmatic in her operations, intentionally keeps her business small, and has the ability to listen to client’s and team members’ needs and concerns. John approached the issue of possessing strategic leadership qualities quite differently. According to John, he considers the ‘what, why and when’ with regards to a planning point of view. John also mentioned he relies on assessment tools prior to the implementation of any plan. Therefore, the assessment process assists him in determining whether the move is strategic or not.
What is the vision of your organization?
Regarding the vision of the organization, Matthew Essieh stated his vision is, “To be the leader in providing financial services technology and responsive services to clients.” Karen Howells envisions her organization to be one of the strongest regional players. She also believes it takes leaders and organizations to the next level of success, does not work with failing organizations, and remains a ‘boutique firm’ that customizes its services to meet the needs of clients. According to John Goldrick, University of Portland’s vision is to be the best Catholic teaching university in the western United States focusing on faculty who are abreast in research and publication.
Are your staff/followers familiar with this vision?
Each of the leaders I interviewed stated their followers were familiar with the vision of the organization. According to Matthew, his staff believes in the vision because they live by it every day. “My followers understand that everything is client centered and has to be approached as a strategic partnership with clients,” said Karen Howells. Karen stated she knows her followers have bought into the vision because they often refer her to other clients. John Goldrick strongly believes his followers are familiar with the vision because he seldom discusses issues without relating it to the vision of the university. He also added it is an expectation he has of his followers and is incorporated into how they execute their work on a daily basis.
In what ways would you say your staff/followers are supportive of the vision?
According to Matthew, he reported his follower’s exhibit support for the vision of the organization through the work they do each day by providing innovative technology and responsive services to their customers. He mentioned the vision drives his employees to develop quality products for their clients. Karen Howells stated an emphatic “yes” as evidence of the fact her staff are supportive of the vision of the organization. John Goldrick stated his follower’s support of the vision of the organization and this is reinforced through annual retreats and full day discussions. According to him, his followers also provide regular feedback on the administration by highlighting the positives and negatives.
Have you taken part in a strategic planning process as a leader?
Matthew stated he and the organization has taken part in a strategic planning process and will participate in the process again this year. “Absolutely”, Karen Howells stated when asked whether she has ever taken part in a strategic planning process. According to Karen, she leads a lot of strategic planning session with her clients, as well as, with the staff in her business. John Goldrick stated he has taken part of numerous strategic planning sessions for the university during of fourteen years that he has been there. However, John stated the university does not typically put it into practice and this often results in frustration on the part of the followers. He mentioned the university put together a strategic plan, but it was not used because the goals and objectives were too many. John feels there are many problems associated with strategic plans. First, he thinks strategic plans are not fluent with the total needs of an existing organization. Second, strategic plans are usually not structured to operate as a living document and third, he believes the tasks provided in the strategic plan are usually in conflict with strategic thinking. Thus, he recommends fewer goals, objectives, and tasks should be incorporated into a strategic plan in order to make it more applicable to the specific departments at the university.
If so, what time frame is adopted for the strategic planning and implementation process of your organization (monthly, quarterly, annually)?
According to Matthew, his organization adopts the annual approach to the strategic planning process. He stated his organization revisits the plan annually. Karen Howells reported her firm adopts the semi-annual approach for the strategic planning process. According to Karen, she holds annual meetings with her followers to review the past year as part of their strategic planning process. According to John Goldrick, the University of Portland used to develop a strategic plan every 10 years, but now the school utilizes a five-year approach. He stated this is driven by the academic accreditation board regulations.
In your opinion, what is strategic thinking?
When asked to give his opinion on what he considered as strategic thinking, Matthew stated that he considers “strategic thinking to be the day-to-day operational type of thinking.” He also mentioned it is the process of stepping back and looking at the broader purpose and direction of the organization. Furthermore, he stated strategic thinking includes deliverables and the implementation of a strategic plan to achieve goals, objectives and the purpose of the organization. Matthew gave an example of opening up a new office in Accra, Ghana with a vision to reach out to the West African Sub-region as a form of strategic thinking. According to Karen Howells, a leader’s ability to walk onto a balcony to gain a better view of things in terms of social, economic and political issues determines whether he or she is a strategic thinker. Karen gave an example of a client who is using the current health bill to his advantage, and at the same time, helping others. Karen stated a strategic thinker considers how things fit both inside and outside of the organization to determine what actions need to be taken. “Such leaders strive to be ahead of the game,” Karen remarked. For John Goldrick strategic thinking comes into perspective when a leader considers the ‘why’ and not the ‘what’. Thus, the leader considers why the organization is doing what it has set out to do and asks if it is taking the appropriate path.
Which strategic thinking and planning skills are necessary for a successful process?
With regards to strategic thinking and planning skills necessary for a successful process, Matthew stated as the CEO of the organization, he considers the direction of a proposed product, what competitors are offering and whether the product will be successful within the next three years. He also mentioned he works in collaboration with his project manager who skills assist in product development. The project manager assists in determining the sustainability and success of the product and the costs involved. Karen Howells mentioned the following skills as necessary for a successful strategic thinking and planning process. For strategic thinking, the leader must be able to look ahead and envision the organization by utilizing different approaches. She also mentioned a strategic leader must know the market in which he or she operates in. For strategic planning to take place, Karen mentioned the leaders must seek to engage the entire organization in the process. According to Karen, she believes funneling, environmental scan, and annual planning sessions can facilitate a successful process. John Goldrick stated no planning process works if it originates from the top. Therefore, he listens to his followers and adopts an all inclusive process of planning. Trust, honesty, and openness are key to a strategic thinking and planning process. He stated leaders who are not open and do not listen develop ineffective plans.
Which strategic thinking and planning tools do you use for your planning and implementation process?
Matthew stated he uses individual people as tools for the planning and implementation process. He reported he relies on key players and stakeholders within his organization such as board members, staff members, and clients. He also reported he creates a culture of strategic thinking and planning to be used as a tool for the implementation process. According to Karen, she uses the ‘sticky wall’ idea as a tool during the strategic thinking and planning process. During this process, participants are encouraged to write their personal vision, mission, goals, objectives, and ideas, as well as, that of the organization. Karen then uses the data collected for the planning and implementation process. Karen also mentioned brainstorming and funneling as effective tools for the strategic thinking and planning process. John Goldrick stressed the use of communication as a dynamic tool for the strategic thinking and planning process. He suggested leaders adopt a discussion and explanation strategy when thinking and planning with their followers. Promulgation of information is key for a successful planning and thinking process, John Goldrick said.
What obstacles do you consider as a hindrance to the practice and implementation of strategic thinking and planning within your organization?
When the organizational culture is not open and receptive to strategic thinking and planning processes, its practice and implementation becomes an issue for leadership and followers, Matthew remarked. According to him, when followers are not invested in the overall success of the organization it becomes difficult for leadership to implement strategic thinking within the organization. Followers not just interest in their paycheck can be a huge success for this process. Karen stated the size of her organization is often a hindrance to strategic thinking and planning. She also mentioned a lack of energy because of other life circumstances have been a barrier to strategically thinking and planning for the organization’s progress and growth. John Goldrick mentioned a lack of creativity, a fear of change, apprehension towards taking risks, a fear of making mistakes, the inability to lack failure and a refusal to undertake true assessment of the situation can be huge hindrances to the strategic thinking and planning process.
What systems do you have in place to assist you as a leader in identifying strategic thinkers within your organization?
According to Matthew, he identifies strategic thinkers by providing followers with the opportunity to lead a software development project. He also creates small and ad hoc teams for individual followers to be given the opportunity to solve problems and develop new ideas. Karen relies on team members to assist in the strategic thinking process and therefore identifies who excels in such an area. She also works towards identifying potential employees and places them on short-term projects to allow her to observe and confirm they possess strategic thinking skills. John Goldrick, on the other hand, does not consider this process as a system. According to him, it is more of an appraisal process which he undertakes once a year with his followers to identify strengths and weaknesses. After this process, “I am able to identify strategic thinkers,” John said. However, he stated it is a difficult process to undertake with university administrators.
As a leader, do you use a strategic team? If so, how do you choose your team members?
Matthew reported he uses strategic leadership teams within specific departments. Karen Howells uses a team of consultants as her strategic leadership team. According to Karen, when the need arises she utilizes other individuals from other organizations who possess the skills needed. According to John Goldrick, his strategic leadership team comprises of his staff which is made up of fourteen departmental heads. He reported the team meets for two hours every two weeks to deliberate on issues concerning the university. He stated, “I could not function without the team,” John said. He reported such collaboration allows us to work towards a common goal he concluded.
What would you consider as your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
Matthew mentioned his organization possesses the following strengths. It is responsive to clients’ needs, flexible to solve client needs, relies on client needs to define its problems and adapts to client needs. He felt the organization had the following weaknesses: unrealistic client expectations and the lack of stability of a product. Matthew stated his organization is flexible and responsive and therefore this can be seen as an opportunity. The inability to meet customer expectations, a threat to credibility and the potential to lose customers are seen as threats, according the Matthew.
According to Karen, the individual clients the organization works with and the reputation of her team members are seen as strengths. As a leader, Karen stated her inability to clearly see the future is a weakness. Karen reported she has not been in good health over the past year and therefore does not have a committed direction for the organization and as a result has not marketed her services as readily as in recent years.
John Goldrick stated the strengths of the University of Portland is that it is a Catholic University and University of Portland is aware of what it wants. The University of Portland lacks self-confidence and therefore this is seen as a weakness. However, he sees opportunities in the horizon as individuals are beginning to recognize the identity of the institution. He foresees secularization and narcissism of the American society, the growing need for instant gratification, and the delayed enjoyment in higher education as threats to the welfare of the institution.
What strategies do you rely on to combat perceived weaknesses and threats to/within your organization?
Clear communication of customers’ expectations; internally enforcing flexibility, responsiveness to customer needs, and communication among leaders and followers; and ongoing training and accountability are strategies that Matthew utilizes to combat perceived weaknesses and threats to his organization. Karen uses change initiatives and time-lines to combat weaknesses and threats within her organization. John employs open communication; a collective approach to leadership; and endless conversation around the vision, mission, goals and objectives of the institution to combat weaknesses and threats.
What specific tools do you rely on to determine the progress and growth of your organization?
In determining the progress and growth of the his organization, Matthew keeps close accounts of sales figures, the measurement of profitability, client retention, cost management and the measurement of growth and retention of staff. According to Karen, she considers ‘how full the pipeline is,’ how may referrals the firm receives, and the level revenue for the firm. John presented a different approach to determining the progress and growth of his organization. According to John, he uses assessment tools and performance appraisals and reviews on a regular basis.
Please mention and explain 5 trends you perceive as having the potential to impact the long-term performance and success of your organization?
According to Matthew, the contraction and expansion of the financial services industry, mergers and acquisitions within the industry and the changing pace of technology and staying abreast of such changes are potential trends that may affect his organization. He also mentioned the workforce in the United States over the most recent years has not seen enough individuals being trained within the information technology industry. Therefore there is a limited workforce to tap into. He also stated the cost of labor and current privacy laws and regulations regarding sensitive data may also have an adverse affect on his organization in the near future. Karen believes the following trends will impact her organization’s performance and success over the course of time: clients’ desire for instant gratification, organizational fatigue and overload, and competition from competitors. Karen also mentioned the emergence and growth of small businesses can have a huge impact on her organization. Karen believes the current generation of young people, will have a significant impact on her company. John had similar views with Karen. John perceives secularization, narcissism, instant gratification and federal government regulations will impact the performance and success of the University of Portland.
The leaders in this interview were carefully selected as a result of my interests and practice in consulting and higher education. The questions were carefully crafted to elicit the needed information from the selected leaders regarding what they considered as their strengths as leaders and in the area of strategic thinking and planning. Interestingly the three leaders had similar views though operate in different industries. Their views regarding trends that will impact the future of their organization are proof of their ability to think and plan strategically in order to run successful organizations. All three leaders provided great examples of visionary leadership and they brought strategic thinking and planning to life. It is therefore in the good interest of organizational leaders to research and practice strategic thinking and planning principles. Leaders who lack the ability to think and plan strategically must rely on internal and external consultants[xiv] who will facilitate the process of imparting the needed knowledge, skills and expertise for a successful operation. Such leaders can take steps to build a resource base of materials centered on strategic thinking and planning for their organizations for the use of their followers in order to develop a culture of strategic thinking and planning in their organizations.
[i] Hughes, R. & Beatty, K.C (2005). Becoming a Strategic Leader: Your Role in Your Organization’s Enduring Success. Jossey- Boss, San- Francisco, CA.
[ii] Fairholm, M. & Card, M. (2009). Perspectives of Strategic Thinking: From Controlling Chaos to Embracing it. Journal of Management. 15(1), 17-30.
[iii] Hughes, R. & Beatty,K.C (2005). Becoming a Strategic Leader: Your Role in Your Organization’s Enduring Success. Jossey- Boss, San- Francisco, CA.
[iv] Sanders, I. (1998). Strategic Thinking. Strategy & Leadership. 33(5), 5-12
[v] Goldman, E.F. (2007). Strategic Thinking at the Top. MITSloan Management Review. 48 (4). 75-80
[vi] Abraham, S. (2005). Stretching Strategic Thinking. Strategy & Leadership. 33(5) 5-12.
[vii] Strong, B. (2005) Strategic Planning: What’s So Strategic About It? Educase Quarterly.
[viii] Sanders. (1998).
[ix] Briefing Notes: What is Strategic Thinking? (Philadelphia, PA: Center for Applied Research, 200), 1.
[x] Fairholm & Card. (2009).
[xi]Jones, T. (2010). What is Your Vision? Leadership Excellence. 27(3), 6.
[xii] Robert N. Lussier, R.N. & Achua, C.F. (2007). Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development: Thompson Higher Education. Mason, Ohio.
[xiii]Richardson, D. (2009). The Urgency Factor…Leadership Communication In Chaotic Times. Of Counsel. 28(8), 10-13.
[xiv] Block, P. (2000), Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used. Pfeiffer, San Francisco, CA. 5.
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Strategic thinking is a knowledge acquisition process that connects and involves every component and department of an organization by defining the direction of the organization, how it construes its strategy into execution, how it reassesses the organization’s direction, and then fine tuning its path.Peter Carlos Okantey Articles
The Navy – it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure! Get technical training, see the world, earn educational benefits, and be part of the fight against global terrorism! These are just a few of the reasons people are motivated to join the Navy. The Navy experience varies from sailor to sailor causing some to leave the Navy after a few years and others to make it a career. After their duty station, the biggest influence on a sailor’s Navy experience is typically their leader and that person’s leadership style. Leadership styles in the Navy can be compared to a Clint Eastwood movie; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Generally when a Sailor or Navy veteran is asked who their best leader was, it won’t take them much time to identify the good. Similarly, when ask who their worst Navy leader was, they can identify the bad almost immediately. Then there are those sailors who have experienced the ugly Navy leader. These are sailor’s who have survived bosses whose leadership styles are so toxic, the leader is often relieved from their position.
What leads to these people in authority to act the way they do, whether good, bad, or ugly? It has been suggested that a leaders inner motives, combined with their competencies, drives leadership style. The leader chooses their leadership style to help them best achieve their motives. This article explores what motivates one subsection of the military, naval leaders, and how that motivation influences the specific leadership style or styles they use.
Honor, Courage, and Commitment
All sailors are required to know and expected to live the Navy’s Core Values of “Honor, Courage, and Commitment.” Honor requires truthfulness, honesty, integrity, respect for others, knowing right from wrong, and acting in an ethical manner. Courage is the personal and moral fortitude to do what is right whether facing anything from enemy fire to a temptation. Commitment means staying the course regarding the oath to ‘defend and protect,’ personal behavior, technical skills, and respect for others. The core values give all sailors the fortitude to fulfill their duty to their followers and their country.
These core values were not arbitrarily arrived at. Being honest was rated the top characteristic of admired leaders in repeated studies. Even though the studies were conducted with non-military personnel, courage was also ranked high. These values drive commitment and without commitment, a leader’s credibility diminishes.
Navy Leadership Training
The Navy has long recognized that leadership styles and skill levels have an impact on mission accomplishment, retention, and morale. For years, the Navy has had the Naval Leadership Continuum which provides career-long leadership training from E-4 to the flag officer level. The top three leaders of any Navy command are expected to attend leadership training at the commanding officer, executive officer, or command master chief level as appropriate. Navy leadership training is not only for senior leaders but is also targeted at far more junior personnel. Navy leadership training has such a good reputation Forbes magazine reported that many of the top corporations in the nation have studied it “…to see what they can learn and adapt from the Navy, to weave into their own cultures of leadership learning and development.”
Sounds good, right? Despite the majority of Navy leaders who uphold the highest traditions of our nation, other Navy leaders continue to make headlines for leadership failures. Regrettably, these incidents greatly damage the leader’s career and normally reflect poorly on his or her family, service, and country. What motivates these leaders to stray from the sound leadership principles which they have been taught? And can their leadership style predict hidden motivations?
In reality, it is difficult to know what truly motivates an individual, but with most leaders there are indications of what motivates them. Going back to Clint Eastwood’s outline, let’s look at some well-known naval leaders, their leadership styles, and what may have motivated them.
While stationed on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon in the 1990s, I was fortunate enough to serve with two great naval leaders, General Peter Pace, USMC, and Admiral Vernon Clark, USN. At the time, they were both three-star flag officers and served in key positions on the staff. Both were strategic thinkers with stellar reputations as intelligent, honest, hard working, and selfless leaders who cared strongly not only for the mission but for their people. There was never a question that both men loved their country and were ready to do whatever needed to be done to get the mission accomplished. Their motivation was to serve not only their leaders and followers but their country and fellow countrymen.
Both of these gentlemen had similar leadership styles – a combination of servant leadership and transformational leadership. Servant leadership has been described as a style where the leader places others at the center instead of themselves and who view their task as serving others. A transformational leadership style is evident when the leader dismisses using their position or rank to get something done and “…instead attempts to motivate and mobilize followers by persuading them to take ownership of their roles in a more grand mission that is shared by all members of the organization.” There are some who would suggest these leadership styles are “touchy-feely” or not goal-oriented enough, but this is not the case. It should be noted that both these men were fiercely dedicated to the mission of national defense and their leadership style prompted others to emulate that dedication to the mission despite danger, family separation, low pay, and difficult living conditions. These two exemplary leaders each had 30+ years of service to their country. Through these years, there were countless examples of actions that personified the type of leader they were. An example from each helps to show their true colors.
Admiral Clark continued to excel after his tour on the Joint Staff and rose to become the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), the Navy’s top position, in July 2000. A quick review of his CNO guidance to his leaders demonstrates his commitment to the mission and to his people.
Winning the Global War on Terrorism is our number one priority… Last year I told you I wanted every leader to be evaluated on two things, their commitment to the growth and development of their people and above all to mission accomplishment…I want each of you to understand that mission accomplishment means both warfighting effectiveness and resourcefulness. It has been said that great leaders do the right thing, and great managers do things right—we need to do both…People remain at the heart of all we do; they are capital assets in our Navy. We have invested heavily to do what is right for our people. As we look to the future, we will build on the impressive progress we have made in recruiting, assigning, and retaining our military and civilian professionals. "Growth and development" is our byline and I expect every leader to be deeply involved in developing their shipmates. Active leadership is making it happen today and will do so in 2003.
Admiral Clark didn’t just talk the leadership talk – he walked the walk. In January 2002, he traveled half way around the world to reenlist sailors onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. His words following the ceremony demonstrated his commitment to his sailors, “I came out here to look you in the eye, and tell you something that I couldn't tell you if I just sent you a message. I came out here to look at you and tell you that the American people are so proud of what you're doing.”
General Pace also was clear in what he thought was important – the sailors, soldiers, marines, and airmen that he led in the nation’s highest military position. In 2007, while serving as the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), he was told that he would not be renominated for the CJCS position. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates suggested to Pace that he voluntarily retire to reduce awkwardness with the Bush Administration. He refused. After a speech at the Joint Forces Staff College, he was asked why he did not voluntarily step down.
“I said I could not do it for one very fundamental reason, and that is that ‘Pfc. Pace’ in Baghdad should not think ever that his chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield,” he said. Out of his sense of leadership, he could not even consider the idea, Pace said. Therefore, he did not submit his retirement papers until after it became publicly known that he was not going to be renominated. “The other piece for me personally was that some 40 years ago I left some guys on the battlefield in Vietnam who lost their lives following Second Lieutenant Pace,” he said. “I promised myself then that I will serve this country until I was no longer needed. I need to be told that I’m done. I’ve been told I’m done.”
Both Clark and Pace were motivated by love for country, their countrymen, and those they led. Their leadership styles clearly reflected and promoted achievement of their motives.
Not all successful military officers are necessarily good leaders. Most career officers have seen leaders “that eat their young” and wondered how it happens when a poor leader gets promoted or put into a position of power. Retired Green Beret Lt. Col. Mark Johnson noted, “Anyone can try to impress and fool the boss and peers and actually be successful doing it…But the true test, the true mark of your respect and character comes from below, not above.” What motivates this negative type of leadership style could range from anything from insecurity to over-confidence. An interesting case is that of Admiral Earnest J. King, who some consider one of the greatest Naval heroes of the 20th century.
Admiral King served as both the Commander in Chief and the Chief of Naval Operations in World War II. He was an extraordinarily intelligent risk-taker who quickly climbed the ranks after graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. In a biography of King, Thomas Buell noted his primary motivation, “King had but one aim in his life during his first forty years of naval service; to become the Chief of Naval Operations…He made no secret of it. He would tell anyone who would listen…”
As his primary motivation was self-interest, it is not surprising to find that many subordinates found his leadership style abrasive and uncompromising. As the Navy Commander in Chief, King worked his staff to the point where there were illnesses including heart attacks and even a suicide. One officer who worked for King reported he did not tolerate errors and that “Censure was swift, devastating, and before a cloud of witnesses.” Another officer noted that filled rooms would clear out when he entered, “No one seemed to want to be where King was.”
Admiral King was an extraordinarily successful naval officer who contributed to the Navy mission, but his brusque leadership style was clearly not appreciated by his Sailors. It is interesting to ponder if King’s abrasive leadership style would have been tolerated in today’s environment where command climate is a consideration. As King’s motivation to become Chief of Naval Operations was so strong, today he may have very well adapted his leadership style into something more acceptable.
It is disturbing that 39 senior Navy leaders were relieved for professional or personal incidents or indiscretions in 2011. Equally concerning is so far in 2012, 26 senior Navy leaders have been fired. Sexual harassment, hazing, drunk driving, adultery, incompetence, inappropriate relationships, cruelty, and maltreatment are some of the behaviors that these leaders were fired for. It is unlikely that these leaders intentionally wanted to end their careers in disgrace. What was their motivation for this poor leadership behavior? Each of these leaders was required to go through leadership training before they took their positions – training that reinforced that any of these behaviors would most likely lead to dismissal for cause. Training that also highlighted the difficult spot that this type of dismissal put their family, their command, their Navy, and their country in.
Possible motives were personal gain, sexual gratification, and a quest for power. Other contributors included stupidity and poor judgment. These motivations contrast sharply against motivations such as service to country, service to fellow service members, and mission accomplishment. When a leader is committed and motivated to their mission and their people, they intentionally avoid situations that encourage or facilitate poor decision making.
Although less than one percent of commanding officers are relieved each year, it would be wise to remember these are only the ones who were caught and reported. How many sailors are out there trying to hold on and waiting for a transfer date for their boss or themselves? Besides the personal embarrassment to the leader and the Navy, there are significant costs to the taxpayer for these leadership failures. One of the primary symptoms of dysfunctional leadership behavior is lower productivity due to low morale. Gallup estimates it can cost an organization approximately 1/3 of its payroll cost. Additionally, retention can be negatively affected resulting in increased costs for the Navy. Then there is the obvious cost of having to find and train qualified reliefs for those who are dismissed.
One solution may be to go through these cases and analyze what were the motives of the leader that prompted the incident or incidents that ended their careers? When we understand one’s motives, we can better understand their behavior. And could an analysis of leadership styles help to predict poor behavior? If so, who would be best to conduct an analysis of leadership styles?
A study on destructive leadership behavior in the Swedish military was recently completed which could have bearing on this problem. The study provided a survey to subordinates of military leaders and asked them to answer “How well do the following statements fit with regard to your immediate supervisor/commander?” Twenty statements were rated including: uses threats to get their way, has violent tendencies, put’s own needs ahead of the group, gives unclear instructions, etc. The survey could be completed in a short time and the results proved statistically reliable. This instrument also fits nicely into a 360-degree evaluation. Although some officers and senior enlisted would be threatened by a system such as this, those leaders who have the right motives and right leadership styles should welcome one. As Lt. Col. Mark Johnson noted it is easy to trick your leaders and peers into thinking you are a great leader. It is not so easy to trick your subordinates – our service members are smart and know a good leader when they see one.
Personal motivations do impact leadership styles for the simple reason that in order to get what they want people naturally adopt those characteristics that will help them achieve their goal. When motivations fall outside of the Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment, leadership styles also fall outside of the acceptable boundaries the Navy has tried to instill not only through its leadership training but culture as well.
About the author:
Captain Jeanne McDonnell (ret.) served in the U.S. Navy for 25 years. Command assignments included Naval Support Activity Norfolk, Naval Administrative Command, and Transient Personnel Unit Norfolk. She also served in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff and Navy Staff. Jeanne has a Masters Degree in Education from Old Dominion University and another in Military Studies from U.S. Marine Corps University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Strategic Leadership at Regent University.
This material is copyright protected. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any form or by any means without permission from weLEAD Incorporated. Copyright waiver may be acquired from the weLEAD website.
 Brusman, Maynard. "Emotionally Intelligent Leadership Styles - Leaders Inner Motivations." EzineArticles. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Aug 2012.
 Harmon, C. "The US Navy Core Values - Honor, Courage and Commitment." EzineArticles. n.d. n. page. Web. 24 Aug. 2012.
 Kouzes, J. and Posner, B. (2010). The truth about leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
 Saslow, S. "Inside The U.S. Navy’s Leadership School." Forbes Magazine. 27 04 1210: n. page. Web. 25 Aug. 2012.
 Kouzes, J. and Posner, B. The Truth about Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010. 138. Print.
 Phillips, Donald. Lincoln on Leadership. New York, NY: Business Plus, 1992. 172. Print.
 Clark, Vernon. "CNO Guidance for 2003." Global Security. Global Security, 24 January 2003. Web. 25 Aug 2012.
 Clark, Vernon. United States. U.S. Navy . All Hands Call aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). 2002. Web. <http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/clark/speeches/clark-tr020115.txt>.
 Garamone, Jim. "Pace Pledges His Best Through End of Term." American Forces Press Service [Norfolk, VA] 15 June 2007, n. pag. Web. 25 Aug. 2012.
 Johnson, Mark. Lessons in Leadership: Straight Talk from a Green Beret. Dallas, TX: Brown Books Publishing Company, 2005. 111. Print.
 Buell, Thomas. Master of Sea Power. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1980. xx. Print.
 Ibid., pg 91.
 Ibid., pg 232.
 "Commanding officer, XO and senior enlisted firings." Navy Times [Springfield, VA] 3 July 2012, Web. 22 Aug. 2012. <http://www.navytimes.com/news/2012/07/navy-2012-co-xo-cmc-firings-list/>.
 Tavanti, Marco. "Managing Toxic Leaders: Dysfunctional Patterns." BEPRESS.Com. DePaul University, Jun 2011. Web. 26 Aug 2012.
 Gerry Larsson, Maria Fors Brandebo, Sofia Nilsson, (2012),"Destrudo-L: Development of a short scale designed to measure destructive leadership behaviours in a military context," Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol.33 Iss: 4 pp. 383 - 400
 Johnson, Mark. Lessons in Leadership: Straight Talk from a Green Beret. Dallas, TX: Brown Books Publishing Company, 2005. 111. Print.
The Navy – it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure! Get technical training, see the world, earn educational benefits, and be part of the fight against global terrorism! These are just a few of the reasons people are motivated to join the Navy. The Navy experience varies from sailor to sailor causing some to leave the Navy after a few years and others to make it a career. After their duty sJeanne M. McDonnell Articles
If you monitored the United States’ presidential election process or the corporate woes of Nokia and Research in Motion as they try to recover what were formerly massive stakes in the cellular phone market, then you realize that worthwhile change, even when planned, is neither simple nor easy; it is complex and difficult. Organizations struggling most with change, therefore, seem to be the ones that also struggle most with innovative thinking. Successful organizational changes are possible – just not as clear-cut and idealistic as some management books and journal articles would lead you to believe. Many readers can likely recall an encounter with an Organizational Development (OD) consultant ending with a forgotten, polished report. Separated by time and distance from the change implementation process, the projects appeared clean and clear recipes for new life. But, just as recipes are ineffective if the proper ingredients are not gathered in the correct measurements, at the right time, and combined by the proper tools, so change-management plans are also ineffective if misdirected and misapplied.
Organizational leaders, with or without the aid of consultants, are responsible for these spectacular changes or disasters. C-suite leaders are routinely hired and fired with the understanding that they will bring the “magic” that makes change work, resulting in innovation, efficiency, increased brand value and earnings, reduced turnover, and improved talent acquisition. Surely, useful methods for successful change exist and are routinely highlighted by change-management experts. Still, there are also obstacles that hinder change management – some errors of commission, others of omission, and they primarily affect individuals on the receiving end of leaders’ visions for change. Among these obstacles, any which makes or breaks follower buy-in is nonnegotiable. It must be addressed well. When unaccounted for, these organizational booby-traps trip up unaware interventionists and halt progress – to the often repeated rate of 70% failure.
Two coalescing perspectives of the change process have dominated OD: Kurt Lewin’s (1890-1947) three-step approach and, more recently, Chris Argyris’ (1923-) theory of intervention and double-loop learning. For Lewin, change processes consisted of:
1) unfreezing the present condition,
2) changing to a new condition as favorable affections replace affections for the old condition, and
3) refreezing the process by which the new condition becomes established.
Essentially, the need for change is realized, desired, and then consistently pursued after a semblance of acceptance for the change is obtained. Argyris’ theory built upon Lewin’s model by introducing discussion about persistent evaluation. In short, he promoted what is called systems thinking, which examines the foundational issues for why problems arise, promoting change at that level. For instance, in collecting performance data, this would mean not only examining the collected data, but it would also entail critiquing the data collection process i.e. Were the correct data collected and the means of collection proper? The point is that alleviating symptoms is not a long-term strategy for successful OD. Leaders need to address root causes – the metaphorical infection causing the sore throat. Effective leaders manage these change efforts like skirmishes comprising a war campaign. For each, they rally their troops’ morale, negotiate resources and leverage competencies, study the benefits and drawbacks of the environment, and assess costs. Such accounting is needed every step of the way because, if not recognized as an opportunity to be well-prepared, each aspect may become a potential obstacle for followers’ change readiness.
The approach most leaders take, resulting in that dismal 30% success rate, is one of firefighting. They see change as inviting resistance, and so they prepare for resistance and learn to “put out fires” along the way. Their fact-pattern is:
Followers naturally react to change, or the idea of change. It is often a matter of perceived control. Some feel they lose while others feel they can only benefit from the change. Successfully timing change events, therefore, requires leaders to monitor followers’ motivations and evidence of growing dissatisfaction with the present situation and greater affinity for the proposed change (willingness to complete additional work, spend extra time onsite, work jointly in cross-functional teams, etc.). These signs indicate readiness for change. Unilateral action should replace politicking when the coalition in favor of change is strong and vocal.
Leaders do not have to settle for such adversarial change-management scenarios. Those projects will exhaust all factions and exacerbate organizational tensions. Instead, leaders ought to seek improvement in organizational relationships throughout the change-management process. These events bring leader-follower tensions and underlying assumptions to the surface, and so they are prime opportunities to address misalignments and strengthen understanding of the organization’s unifying mission while improving operations. The following list of ingredients for effective change management will increase the likelihood of change “sticking” and the organization improving.
1. Organization assessment
Even novice organizations have endured change efforts, and so leaders can look to history for the strengths and weaknesses evidenced in past events, considering: Are the parties to change the same? What cultural barriers remain or have arisen since? Is this change bigger or smaller in scope than past changes? Is this change necessary? How likely will we survive this change? Are there alternatives?
2. Developed vision
Without guidance, change efforts fail. Leaders are responsible for developing the vision for what change will bring – incorporating the needs and expectations of followers and answering and overcoming their concerns. Visions need to clearly describe the organization’s problem as well as inspire followers in counting the cost of change, concluding what is to come is better and more desirable that what is at hand. Fear is another strong motivator; and, when used honorably, powerful visions of negative consequences for failing to change provide additional motivation.
3. Severed ties
In his seminal work, Reflections on the Revolution in France, British statesman Edmund Burke (1791) wrote, “A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.” His point was that the reform process recognizes institutions’ need for innovation, but such innovations improve institutions only if they uphold the institutions’ purposes. Strong ties to the past are good when anchoring policy decisions, but they must serve the organizational mission. When they do not do that, leaders must help followers disconnect from former ways of operating. As confusion can overtake and divide followers who may wonder whether leaders are hijacking the organization, leaders must be careful. Consider the strife caused by differences in American churches undergoing changes in worship styles. Research shows that shared resolve to change across diverse groups is yoked to successful change implementation. Thus, the more readily the status quo can be questioned by followers, the sooner the organization can adapt to present circumstances.
In 1949, the infamous Mann Gulch fire took the lives of thirteen smokejumpers. The wildfire was unassuming, until drastic changes in the environment caused it to erupt into an inferno of death. Because of their quick-thinking, three men survived. Organizational leaders must recognize the level of immediacy required not only to motivate change, but also understand and effectively communicate the threshold after which change will no longer be possible without grave consequences (cost-prohibitive, lost market share, lost talent, agreement deadlines, etc.).
5. Strong leadership
Strong leaders effectively motivate followers to change given the particulars of a situation. Such leaders often have know-how related to the change event and are respected by the followers involved in it. They are crucial for gaining followers’ support and preference, meaning that followers give such leaders the benefit of the doubt when judging whether the leaders actually considered followers’ good before recommending and guiding change.
6. Key follower sponsorship
Depending on the size of your organization, the primary leader may need to secure the support of and then charge certain followers to become secondary leaders. The further removed the primary leader is from those immediately involved in the required changes, the more important it becomes to have leaders in closer proximity also actively supporting change. Distance creates uncertainty, which dissolves trust – a key resource leveraged by successful leaders. Leaders closer to the action should be better equipped to secure the necessary commitment. But, such leaders must have strong rapport with their followers, or their involvement will be counterproductive.
7. Clear implementation plan
If followers are persuaded but provided with no details of who is responsible for what tasks and outcomes, when such will take place, and how the effort should proceed, along with clearly defined lines of communication for decision-making and mechanisms for follower-feedback and readjustments midcourse, then they will likely become anxious, disengaged, and frustrated. The best plans generate follower ownership and elicit immediate action, having been co-developed with followers’ input from the beginning.
8. Enabled followers
Smooth change occurs when followers have power commensurate with their responsibility. Have you ever been tasked with a responsibility for which you were not equipped? Such inadequate empowerment results in follower stress. In the United States, stress leads to losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Leaders, therefore, need to support and champion their followers, providing them with the resources and organizational support to achieve reasonable outcomes. It is an unfair – and likely to be opposed – change effort which expects from followers what they are incapable of providing (not having access to reasonable resources, required authorizations, vital information, key contacts, etc.). Early adopters, properly empowered, can prove decisive as to whether change sticks or slips.
9. Communication, collaboration, and credibility
Socrates’ statement, “Speak, that I may know thee,” illustrates the important role of communication in manifesting intent. Followers look to leaders for direction and encouragement. Leaders must honor this relationship where they are yielded influence by providing reliability and demonstrating integrity in how they manage the change process – telling the truth even when it means conveying uncertainty as well as less-than-flattering news about the change process proceedings. Collaborating with key followers in communication efforts will help the truth permeate follower constituencies so that rumors are ineffective. Additionally, it will improve trust between followers and top leaders, as followers will hear confirming information from the secondary leaders. Leaders should embrace dialogue, especially when it permits them the opportunity to strengthen followers’ clarity about the organization’s mission.
By highlighting successes along the way in the change process, leaders can help cement positive attitudes about the change in followers’ minds. Some followers may be skeptical, but they will eventually support the change if they continually see their peers and leaders rewarded (financially, socially, emotionally, etc.) for positive engagement. Since development entails the idea of continuousness, reinforcement should not focus on the change specifics; rather, it should promote the culture recognizing the need for change and proactively engaging to strengthen the organization given environmental particulars.
Ultimately, leaders must think through their organization’s situation with humility, being open to correction and advice. In doing so, they will earn their followers’ trust and mitigate many concerns about what change means for their futures.
The change-management approach described above is akin to culture-management. The ability to successfully change an organization for greater effectiveness depends on the organization’s ethos – the thinking patterns of its people. Consider this: research shows the failure of change leaders to address this critical concern is listed as a major reason why 80% of corporate mergers and acquisitions fail. The unasked questions driving success or failure in change efforts are: Can we adapt, improve, innovate, and lead? If not, can we become an organization that does? The ten ingredients provided acknowledge this organizational need for leaders and followers who yoke themselves to the future, understanding the times and honoring the past by properly addressing present and future circumstances. In so doing, they create more collaborative environments where change processes produce fruit rather than thorns.
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About the author:
David Stehlik is an independent strategy consultant and in Regent University’s doctoral program in strategic leadership. He received his B.A. from Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, MI and MBA from the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, IN.
Removing the Bitter Taste of Change-10 Ingredients for Organizational Transformation You Can Stomach
If you monitored the United States’ presidential election process or the corporate woes of Nokia and Research in Motion as they try to recover what were formerly massive stakes in the cellular phone market, then you realize that worthwhile change, even when planned, is neither simple nor easy; it is complex and difficult. Organizations struggling most with change, therefore, seemDavid Stehlik Articles
Any change to an organization can be disconcerting, but when new leaders come in it can be particularly unsettling. Many times it seems that whenever a new leader comes into an organization, they want to make changes. Whether we like it or not, it is human nature that some new leaders feel an urge to make their mark upon arrival. It is also human nature for the rest of the organization to resist or fear change. Military organizations are no different than corporate America in this regard. It may even be worse given the frequent turnover of leaders. Change has to happen in order for any organization to keep up with the changing world but it is not always a good thing, especially if it is made for the wrong reasons. This essay will focus on change within the realm of Navy shore commands, look at real examples of change, examine costs of changes, and provide recommendations.
Anticipation – What will change this time?
Every Navy command has a Commanding Officer (CO) who is responsible for the safety, well-being, and efficiency of their command and for carrying out the mission. Operational commands such as ships, submarines, and air squadrons normally do not give their COs as much opportunity to institute major changes as shore commands. Operational commands are too busy with carrying out their mission and are guided closely by their type commanders. On the shore command side, it is a little different. There is more flexibility, there may be civilian personnel, and people normally get to go home at night and on the weekend. The tempo of operations is also normally slower at the shore commands. The length of time CO serves in a tour can range from fifteen months to three years. Rarely does a CO serve over three years.
Getting a new Commanding Officer can be an exciting time and an anxious time. Sailors and government workers know a CO rotates on a regular basis and know when to expect the next one. As that time approaches, there will be discussion at all levels of the command. “Have you heard who the new CO is?” “What do you know about him or her?” Members of the command may feel excited to get new leadership, especially if the outgoing CO is not well liked. If the CO was popular, people may feel resentment and concern that a new CO is coming in. But the bottom line everyone wants to know is “How are things going to change around here?” and “How is this going to impact me?”
Congratulations Future Commanding Officers!
This is the greeting prospective Commanding Officers receive in their welcome letters before they attend the Navy’s Prospective Commanding Officer Leadership course. This two-week course provides information on almost anything the COs will need to know for command from ethics to military law to communications. The advice and training received during this fire-hose course runs the gamut and attempts to provide the tools for success. One thing these leaders do not learn is when and how to implement change and the costs of change. However, one old adage passed down in the Navy is whenever you take over a new command; do not make any changes in the first thirty days. This gives the leader an opportunity to see how the command runs. This can be a heady time for the new COs, many who may have worked their entire careers for this moment. Let’s look at a possible scenario using Commander I. M. Newbie:
After graduation from the leadership course and any other training required, the big day comes. Commander Newbie participates in the traditional change of command ceremony, says a few nice words about the outgoing CO, and reports to his new boss. Family and friends cheer and congratulations are spread all around. CDR Newbie is now the CO, responsible and accountable for the new command. CDR Newbie only has a relatively short period as commanding officer and wants to do the best job he can. He receives briefings, talks to key leaders and other command personnel, conducts tours, and makes observations for the first 30 days as advised. Now it is time for change! After all, CDR Newbie is only going to be here for a short period of time. He will most likely be ranked against other COs of his pay grade – how will he break out? What can CDR Newbie do during his relatively short command tour to make an impression that will lead to the kind of fitness report he needs to make Captain and beyond?
Let’s change something!
This urge to make changes and accomplish great things is not restricted just to commanding officers. Navy leaders at any rank may get the urge to make changes just like their counterparts in the civilian world who are put in a new leadership position. We are taught that change is the way to go. Northouse, an organizational change expert, noted “Change, rather than stability, is the norm today. Whereas change once occurred incrementally and infrequently, today it is dramatic and constant.” So CDR Newbie has precedence for coming in and making change. But, is it possible that CDR Newbie and other new leaders like him are making change for change’s sake?
The primary purpose of change is to improve the organization and make it more competitive and responsive to customer needs. Real change requires a reason and strategy for why you want to change, the skills to make the change, and the long-term and short-term tools to support the change. Additionally these areas must be aligned between the leader and the followers or the optimal outcome may not happen. West and Cianfrani (2004) discussed the importance of alignment of the organization’s objectives, leader’s objectives, and individual objectives. All three should work together with their eyes fixed on common objectives. When objectives are not thought through or aligned properly, things can become difficult and frustrating and result in unintended consequences.
A recent military example of this was the change in Army camouflage uniforms. In 2004, the Army issued a new digitized uniform to be worn in all environments. Problems have abounded with the uniform to the point where American soldiers actually stood out in the Afghan landscape instead of blending in. Earlier this year, it was announced that this uniform will be replaced because it does not meet needs. Reports were that Army leaders sped along the decision before testing was complete. All to the rumored tune of $5 billion. How many military awards or civilian bonuses were given out to the perpetrators of this ineffective and expensive uniform? We can only imagine what the additional costs to reinstate new or previous uniforms will be. In this case, objectives were not aligned and this change caused undo frustration and wasted taxpayer dollars.
Making a Mark!
But, let’s go back to CDR Newbie. With all good intentions, he looks to make his mark on his new command and the Navy. However, making a mark may be more difficult than CDR Newbie originally thought. First, most Navy commands are run efficiently and effectively thanks to previous COs who have made needed change. By the time CDR Newbie takes over, there may not be any obvious low-hanging fruit. Yikes! What can he do in his pursuit of that elusive fitness report or evaluation bullet? Let’s look at some examples of real life changes that other COs made:
A commanding officer reports into his new command and decides he does not like the exterior of the building that houses his command. Despite the building being almost as big as a city block, he begins to work to get the exterior of the building redone. Many weeks go into planning, finding funding, and making it happen. To the surprise of command personnel, the CO obtains a considerable amount of funding to put on a new exterior. After several months of disruption to the command, the job is finished leaving subordinates scratching their heads as to why the Navy would spend big money to make a relatively small cosmetic change.
On another base not far away, a new CO reports in. Things must be going well because there are not any significant changes for a few months. Then the new idea for change arises – change the name of the command. People are confused…change the name of the command? Only the Secretary of the Navy can change the name of a command. The new name does make the job of the CO seem bigger and more important, however. It takes over a year, but the name change is approved. Costs include considerable personnel time and effort and the changing of all base signs, highway direction signs, administrative materials, and patches on all enlisted uniforms. More scratching of the head…
Civilian government workers can stay at a command for many years or even their entire career. This gives them an opportunity to see many changes over the years. What can be most frustrating is when one CO comes in and makes a change and then another comes in a few years later and changes the change! These changes are not only costly financially but suck up energy and effort. Then there’s the frustration level of employees. For example:
A long, long time ago, in a far away fleet concentration area, a new regional commander decided to move his headquarters off one base onto a smaller piece of property that was more central to all the nine bases he commanded. Each of those bases had their own CO who reported to him. The thought process behind this move was that the current location not only infringed upon that particular base’s CO but it also appeared to the other base COs that the CO whose base he was on may have special access to him. The move was made, was generally accepted, and appeared to be working well. The move consisted of moving a large staff out of the new location and onto another base. Renovations were done on the buildings and the regional commander’s staff was moved in. A year later, a new regional commander came in and was also pleased with the arrangement. Three years later, another new regional commander took over and decided that his headquarters should be not only back on the base that it originally was on but back into the same building. This required, once again, moving a large staff out of the original building and back to the other property and then moving the commander’s staff back to the other base. The cost of changing the change was enormous – with estimates as high as several hundred thousands of dollars.
Another example in this same fleet concentration area involved the regionalization of several support programs including family housing; morale, welfare, and recreation; bachelor housing; family advocacy; galleys; and family service centers. Several years ago, the regional commander put one CO in charge of these programs which were spread out on nine bases and included over 3,000 personnel. This change was considered a success, saving the Navy millions of dollars and improving service to the sailors and their families. One of the real tests of the success of this effort was the ability it gave the Navy to respond to the devastating attack on the USS Cole. Thanks to the regionalization effort, within hours personnel and resources from around the region quickly mobilized to provide counseling, housing, meals, and a wide range of other services for the hundreds of family members who converged on the USS Cole’s homeport from around the country. Captain Joe Bouchard, the base CO, noted “The families were effusive in their praise. By all accounts, the effort to support the crew of the Cole and their loved ones was a tremendous success-and a testimony to the soundness of the Navy's often maligned and little understood decision to regionalize the management of its shore installations.”
Captain Bouchard was so impressed with the regionalization efforts, he wrote an article praising the process which was published in Proceedings Magazine. To answer the COs who thought regionalization might take some power from them, he reported, “Regionalization is founded on proven, long-standing organizational and command principles commonly used across the Navy. I have no less authority as a commanding officer than did my predecessors…The Navy cannot afford to return to the old way of doing business without unnecessarily diverting scarce resources from personnel, readiness, and modernization.” Later I became a base CO in the region and was equally impressed with the regionalization efforts. A few years later, under pressure from other base COs who wanted more control, the regional commander reversed the regionalization efforts. Total costs to reverse this effort were not documented but are estimated to be considerable. A price could also not be put on the frustration and confusion the 3,000 employees endured.
The fact that changes did not stick even though they were good ideas is not surprising. It has been reported that on-half to two-thirds of major corporate change initiatives fail and that less than 50% of reengineering programs succeed. In giving advice to public service ministers in England, Richard Layard noted: “…many different organizational structures can be made to work equally well. What cannot work is constant reorganization, where nobody understands what is happening, institutional memory is lost, and everybody worries about their future rather than the job in hand.”
What can be done?
The Navy has a great respect for Commanding Officers and their position and generally hesitates to interfere with changes they make unless they are immoral or illegal. Like CDR Newbie, most COs are not completely self-motivated. If they were, it is unlikely they would choose the military for a career due to the personal hardships required and the relatively low pay. Navy officers generally want to do the right thing for the right reasons. Through the Prospective Commanding Officer Leadership Course, the Navy tries to give the COs the tools they need for success. By adding a learning objective on change theory, the COs may be better prepared to address change, determine where it is needed, weigh the costs of change, and the best way to implement it if needed. They should also be made aware that the legitimate function of resistance to change is avoiding unnecessary change.
Avoiding these types of changes by COs in Navy shore commands will require a culture change. Currently, the culture is “what can I do to stand out among my contemporaries?” The other cultural issue at work at all levels and in all organizations is that new leaders feel they have to make change. Cultural change may be the hardest change of all. This is especially true when the culture is not something that is generally talked about. Attention to these issues should be made through open discussion during Navy leadership courses and other avenues. Commanding Officers need to know that carrying out the mission of their command effectively, efficiently, and safely will make them stand out – not change for change’s sake!
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 De Jager, Peter. "Resistance to Change: A New View of an Old Problem." The Futurist. May-June (2001): 24-27. Print.
Any change to an organization can be disconcerting, but when new leaders come in it can be particularly unsettling. Many times it seems that whenever a new leader comes into an organization, they want to make changes. Whether we like it or not, it is human nature that some newJeanne M. Mc Donnell Articles
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