Oct 08 2020| Leadership
by Phil Eyre Founder
In a recent article, I shared with you my interview with Lt Col Langley Sharp MBE, which outlined his perspectives on leading in a crisis. In the October edition of Business Brief, I summarised the key leadership lessons I learnt from speaking with Langley.
He recently authored Leading Through Crisis: A Practitioner’s Guide, a publication issued by the British Army as part of its mission to develop leadership across the British Army and to work in concert with the public sector in the UK.
His leadership insights have relevance and application far beyond the bounds of the Army; in particular, three central themes stood out for me - mission command, trust and how we must practise our values in the good times so they will stand the test of crises.
The basics of ‘mission command’ are, as Langley explains: ‘A leader can state his/her intent to the people they are leading, give them the resources and boundaries to work within and let them get on with it, whilst remaining ready to support those people if or when they need it.’
In our work, we sometimes encounter leaders who are not clear in their intent; objectives and future direction are too vague. We also encounter micromanagers who hope that their people design every step exactly as they would.
Vague objectives will set up the team for failure. Micromanaging robs them of creativity and responsiveness. Effective leaders set the headlines and enable their people to take the decisions necessary to achieve those objectives.
The Importance of Trust
The importance of building trust in order for individuals and teams to perform optimally. The British Army places a high focus on trust; trustworthy leaders are effective leaders. Self-serving leaders are not. As Langley said in our interview: ‘“Me first” doesn’t inspire trust.’
The Army Leadership Code is founded on values that include respect for others, integrity and selfless commitment.
I asked Langley whether people are inherently trustworthy or whether trustworthiness can be learned. His perspective is both: we can choose to build or undermine trust in any situation that we face. We can also learn how to build trust.
Building team trust is at the centre of practically all of the work we are currently doing with our clients. Enabling team members to better understand each other, identifying mutual strengths and challenging blindspots is the foundation for creativity and excellent performance.
Define in war and refine in peace
Great leadership is ‘defined in war and refined in peace’. Actively practising and living our values in the ‘small’ day-to-day challenges sets us up to tackle those ‘defining moments’ more readily.
Talking about values or posting words on walls is at best just the beginning of creating healthy habits. It’s only in applying those intentions, including in small decisions, that we grow and develop our ‘values muscles’.
If integrity matters, it’s not the poster that will build integrity, nor how the website looks, but whether we choose a high-integrity approach to everyday choices. What goes into your expense claims? What are you prepared (and not prepared) to sign? How will you look after your people when profits are squeezed?
In our conversation, Langley closed by saying: ‘We are products of our experiences, as soon as you stop learning you stop being a leader.’ This is a standout sentiment for me, and one that is highly applicable in these times.