#76 Enhacing Others

One of my readers sent me the following article from the Harvard Business Review this week and since it mirrors many of my other thoughts, I thought I would share it here:


In many ways, it seems to me that the Army, and many corporations, are holding onto an outdated definition and model for leadership. I think that most people still envision one person, at the top of the organization, who, by force of personality and will is the main driver of success and mission accomplishment. This sort of directive style is still extremely prevalent in the Army and is very easy to spot. The leader will have people streaming on and out of his/her office all day, people will obsess over the slightest approval or disapproval from the boss, no decision will be made without his/her approval etc. This larger-than-life leader becomes the entire 'face' of the organization. The living embodiment of the institution and the mission. This also seems to fit a generalized American appreciation for heroes. The natural born leader...the quarterback who drives the team down field for the winning touchdown. For example, there is a lot of talk right now that the fight in Afghanistan is now General Petraeus' war. As if he alone will be able to affect it's outcome by sheer force of will. Iraq has been called President Bush's war and Afghanistan has been labeled President Obama's war. There is the continued idea that the one individual - a Patton, or Eisenhower, or Westmoreland, or Schwarzkopf, or Franks is the one person capable for providing the purpose, direction and motivation of the entire organization.

It may be time for another option. A more participative leadership model that has been around since I attended my first leadership school in 1994. I remember there being three types of leaders described: Directive, Delagative and Participatory. My recollection is that Directive said, "I make all the decisions". Delagative said, "I let my subordinates make all the decisions". Participative mixed the two. Obviously, even in the way they were labeled in the manual, the Army put a premium on directive leadership. Although it gave credence to the other two models on paper, in real life, it rewarded and prized the directive leader who made all the right calls. That model still exists today and is only now beginning to be challenged and questioned as to it's merits in the current operational environment.

The attachment in Post #75, "Power to the Edge" also dealt with this issue at the unit or corporate level by comparing the industrial age, hierarchical organizational structure and the information age, network-centric model. The idea that any organization is a straight line from top to bottom or bottom to top is rapidly being replaced by a model of circles and affiliations that move through, and around each other, often forming new sub-units and relationships that come together to serve a purpose and then break apart again later on when their purposes diverge. This concept has also been termed 'Team of Teams'. This network-centric model has also been put to very successful use by our adversaries as they bind themselves together in limited partnerships to accomplish a common goal, but then separate again when their aims are no longer consistent. At the personal level however, we still don't seem to understand how to make this network-centric model work. Because our adversaries do this well, they continue to re-orient and move against us by morphing, adapting, and adjusting faster than we can. In effect, they are more agile. And that agility is derived from their ability to form circles, groups, and networks at the user level in order to achieve a larger goal or purpose. It is no longer one person at the top who sets the tone, it is the empowerment of thousands of people at the bottom working in tandem who drives success.

'Power to the Edge' states:

"Power to the edge is about changing the way individuals, organizations,and systems relate to one another and work. Power to the edge involves the empowerment of individuals at the edge of an organization (where the organization interacts with its
operating environment to have an impact or effect on that environment) or, in the case of systems, edge devices. Empowerment involves expanding access to information and the elimination of unnecessary constraints. For example, empowerment involves providing access to available information and expertise and the elimination of procedural constraints previously needed to deconflict elements of the force in the absence of quality information."

How are these 2 things related? I think if you look at the hierarchical model of leadership outlined in the following paragraph from the Harvard Business Review article you can easily see many of the archtypical Army leaders today. Simply change the organization from a business model to a brigade combat team model and many will find themselves saying, "Ha! I know that type of organization or boss. I work for that person":

"Some leaders drain all the intelligence and capability out of their teams. Because they need to be the smartest, most capable person in the room, these managers (leaders) often shut down the smarts of others, ultimately stifling the flow of ideas. You know these people, because you’ve worked for and with them.

Consider the senior vice president (battalion commander) of marketing (XYZ unit) who, week after week, suggests new targets and campaigns for your team—forcing you to scurry to keep up with her thinking rather than think for yourself and contribute your own ideas. Or, the vice president (Operations Officer) of product development who, despite having more than 4,000 top-notch software engineers on staff, admits that he listens to only a couple of people at development meetings, claiming “no one else really has anything much to offer.” These leaders—we call them “diminishers”—underutilize people and leave creativity and talent on the table."

What the HBR article and the 'Power to the Edge' document point out, is that the requirements of network-centric organizations (and warfare) require a different type of leader development model. A model that more closely aligns itself with the Delagative and Participative styles outlined above. The HBR article goes on to say:

"We found several critical differences in mind-set between the two types of leaders. The diminisher’s view of intelligence is based on elitism, scarcity, and stasis: That is, you won’t find high levels of brainpower everywhere, in everyone, and if your employees don’t get it now, they never will. The multiplier’s view, meanwhile, is much less cut-and-dried. This type of manager believes smarts are ever evolving and can be cultivated. The critical question for these leaders is not “Is this person smart?” but rather “In what ways is this person smart?” The job, as the multiplier sees it, is to bring the right people together in an environment that unleashes their best thinking—and then stay out of the way.Getting the most from your team is important all the time; but when the economy is weak, it’s even more critical. You can’t solve talent problems by throwing money at them, swapping in “better” talent at higher salaries. No doubt your employees are stretched tight, but many of your top performers would probably admit to feeling underutilized. Their workloads may be at capacity, but they’re sitting on a stockpile of untapped—or, even worse, thwarted—ideas, skills, and interests. So while you may think you can’t ask for more from your people in these tumultuous times, it turns out you can. But only if you are willing to shift the responsibility for thinking from yourself to your employees. Our research suggests you can get much more from your team (even twice as much), without adding resources or overhead, if you lead like a multiplier—something you can achieve no matter where you are on the spectrum of leadership styles."

In my opinion, this is exactly the situation we face in many of our formations today. We still have too many 'diminishers and not enough 'multipliers'. When I talk to young officers they often speak of feeling 'undervalued' or 'disrespected' by the organization and not allowed to be a fully contributing member. In a hierarchical model this makes sense because the 'senior' people simply do not believe that the 'junior' people have the knowledge or experience to be full contributing members. However, it seems to me that after 9 years of war, and with the revolution in technology and information access, we now posses the most knowledgeable 'bottom' we have had in 50 years, since Vietnam.

This recognition also seems to meet the Millennial generation head on. In another HBR article entitled, "Mentoring Millennials" the authors provide the following as to the things that matter most to this generation of young people:

"The Millennials, we saw, did want a constant stream of feedback and were in a hurry for success, but their expectations were not as outsized as many assume. That’s good news for organizations wondering just who will mentor this rising generation. Baby Boomers are retiring, and Gen X may not be large enough to shoulder the responsibility alone. In the U.S., for instance, the 88 million Millennials vastly outnumber Gen Xers, who are just 50 million strong. Millennials view work as a key part of life, not a separate activity that needs to be “balanced” by it. For that reason, they place a strong emphasis on finding work that’s personally fulfilling. They want work to afford them the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, and connect to a larger purpose. That sense of purpose is a key factor in their job satisfaction; according to our research, they’re the most socially conscious generation since the 1960s."

You can find the link here:


Here's how I believe the model should work. First, the Army needs to re-examine it's commitment to the opening sentence in FM 1, paragraph 1-1:

"First and foremost, the Army is Soldiers. No matter how much the tools of warfare improve, it is Soldiers who use them to accomplish their mission. Soldiers committed to selfless service to the Nation are the centerpiece of Army organizations. Everything the Army does for the Nation is done by Soldiers supported by Army civilians and family members. Only with quality Soldiers answering the noble call to serve freedom can the Army ensure the victories required on battlefields of today and the future."

That paragraph alone recognizes that for the organization of the Army to be successful, it must place it's primary value on it's people. The ideas of commitment, and selfless service (which the Millennial already has) must be felt at the local level. By providing a sense of inclusion, accepting that leaders must find ways to enhance the existing capabilities of subordinates, and creating circles of inclusion and empowerment, we will fulfill the true nature of paragraph 1-1 in the eyes of those thousands at the bottom who will accomplish the institutional mission.

As usual, free-flowing thoughts seem to work better for me, so here is my latest attempt:

A young Millennial leader has a need for inclusion, value, feedback and service....they demand to be taken seriously as a member of the team....the Army must remain a values based organization that serves the Nation....the pace of technology has changed the rate and situational awareness ability of all levels of the organization simultaneously....the hierarchical nature of the Army is changing to a more circular or 'Team of Teams' model....leader development programs at all levels must adapt themselves to this new reality....our adversaries already use this circular model to get inside and remain inside our OODA loop....they are not defeating the Army, they are defeating the Army structure....the cost of not accepting a more participatory leader model will be the loss of the knowledgeable bottom....an unwillingness to increase responsibility and contribution for those at the bottom will have a detrimental impact of future operations.

As always, your thoughts and comments are more than welcome

No comments:

Post a Comment