Hesitation is for the weak. Hesitation can get you or your men killed in combat, you into a car accident, or an opportunity to be missed by your company. There is no place for hesitation in leadership. It should also be noted that there is a difference between doing your due diligence and hesitation. Researching and brain storming in a timely and efficient fashion to arrive at a well thought out decision is good – especially when time is available to do such a thing. Wallowing in indecision and refusing to make tough calls because you’re afraid of the potential outcomes is a bad thing. Be decisive or hand the reins over to someone with a pair of brass ones that can be.
I don’t think there is a whole lot to this principle. Just don’t hesitate. It doesn’t require a personal example. When a decision needs to be made, and all the eyes are on you – make it, stand by it, and if you turn out to be wrong – admit it.
After you made a decision, hope for the best and begin planning for the worst. I would personally rather follow a leader who was decisive and occasionally wrong, then a leader who hesitated at every turn and may never suffer embarrassing defeats, but also never basked in glorious victory.
Learn from your mistakes, but never make excuses for them. You will make mistakes. I have made mistakes. An embarrassingly numerous amount of them in fact. But, I learned from every single one of them, and tried to apply those lessons in future situations. Nobody likes a leader who spits off a string of excuses every time they mess up, it just makes you look weak. A few lessons I have learned the hard way:
- Always remember to rack a round into your rifle when you leave the FOB.
- Don’t A.D. your white light right outside of the building you are about to clear with armed men inside who don’t appreciate late night visits.
- Take the magazine out of your Springfield XD .45 before disassembling it, especially when at your girlfriend’s house, especially when her roommates are home, and especially when her roommates are dating NCO’s from your company.
- Don’t bring the wrong size boots to Afghanistan just because you think, “They’ll stretch out.” Pro tip: They don’t.
Although mistakes can be embarrassing, and often are, you should never make excuses for them. Own up to them, make a mental note, and hope for the opportunity to make up for it. Don’t be that guy with the excuses though. Just don’t. It’s embarrassing, and everyone in your charge can see right through it. Own it, try to laugh it off (if appropriate), and move on.
The best leaders are never the smartest person in the room. Surround yourself with really smart people, and then empower them to make decisions, take charge, and above all – heed their advice. Yes, as the leader, the buck stops with you. But do not be so arrogant to think you have all the answers. If you are the smartest person on your staff or in whatever piece of the pie you are in charge of, then you are not doing a good job of attracting great talent, and if you aren’t attracting great talent – it’s probably because you have a reputation of being a bad leader.
As a recruiter I went out of my way to find people that I thought had the potential to be a better soldier then I was or ever could be. I tried to find people with amazing athleticism, unwavering motivation, and a thirst for education and learning. I was successful in that endeavor in most instances.
As a small business owner today, I pride myself on the fact that I am the least educated and generally least impressive person that is affiliated with my company. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but I have a freaking Ivy League professor and a professional athlete on board. I don’t know what they see in a yahoo like myself, but I am glad to have them and take their words very seriously. For that same reason, I believe my company will be very successful some day.
Talent drives innovation, innovation drives success. A President is only as good as his Cabinet, and a business owner is only as good as his employees. Every leader needs to ask him or herself two things; Am I hiring talented people, and am I utilizing them to their fullest potential? If the answer is “No” to either of those – then you need to check yo self before you wreck yo self. Our government needs to look at this one closely, because… John Kerry? Really? Really? Don’t be the one who is responsible for bringing a “John Kerry” to the team.
Look, I don’t have all the answers, and I certainly don’t claim to be God’s gift to leadership. I’m just a guy with a beard and a cup of coffee. I have been privileged to serve under or work for some really inspirational leaders, and have tried to apply their lessons in my own life as best as possible. I can only hope to get better and to improve as time passes. My hope is that our nations leaders realize their deficiencies and work expeditiously to correct them before any more lives are lost or national embarrassments are suffered.