Leadership 101: The Awendaw Hump

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

In our ongoing LEADERSHIP 101 series, we’ve addressed the warrior (competitive) nature inherent in any true leader who has mastered the art, as well as the importance of the soul (an embracing of our spiritual nature). Remember the five mountains – Body, mind, intuition, emotion, and spirit?

There is also the sacrificial nature of the warrior leader – the willingness to give of oneself to the point of even the most extreme sacrifice – that we find when we combine the warrior’s competitive nature with the development of his spirit. It’s an interesting combination because the competitive leader wants to win. He wants to win to both achieve the goal set before him and to set the example as a leader. Yet if the leader is spiritually advanced, he is also purely SELFLESS. He has a deep desire to put others first, not necessarily desiring to achieve the goal for the goal’s sake, but for something much more altruistic.

What we find in such a leader is one who still desires to win on a personal level, but his motivations for wanting to win are also wrapped up in the responsibility he has to – and feels for – his men.

We’ll get into this in greater detail over the next few pieces in our series. But I’d first like to provide an anecdotal illustration of the idea that a truly competitive leader – desiring to achieve a goal for the goal’s sake – has an equally powerful need to set the example by achieving that goal. He (or she) is also bound by the transcendental laws of leadership to never quit on his (or her) quest to achieving a goal. And there are things of the spirit he (or she) may draw on so as to never quit in any quest of a goal.

This anecdote – minor as it may seem (and minor it is in the scheme of life) – is what we will refer to as the Awendaw Hump. (more…)

Posted on November 2, 2012 at 10:01 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Leadership 101: Show, Don’t tell

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

We writers have a saying, “Show, Don’t tell.” In other words, we shouldn’t tell our readers something is “good.” We should describe the goodness. Rather than telling the reader that a woman is beautiful; we describe her attributes in such a way that the reader sees just how beautiful she really is.

Show-Don’t-tell works the same with leaders and subordinates. As leaders we shouldn’t simply tell our subordinates they’re doing good work. We should show them. DEMONSTRATE to them our appreciation for their good work. How? It’s up to us individually, and it depends largely on the circumstances. But if we are not demonstrating – and demonstrating regularly – our subordinates are either failing to perform, or we’re falling short as leaders. Perhaps both.

IT DOESN’T TAKE MUCH

Keep in mind, demonstrating our appreciation for a job well done doesn’t require a lot. In fact, there’s a fine line between showing and telling. And it’s best to operate close to that fine-line so as not to spoil our charges with too much on the front end.

You wouldn’t award the Navy Cross to a sailor or Marine just because he had completed a task on time. Nor would you award top-tier medals to every rifleman in a platoon just because every rifleman is doing his job (though we do live in the age when every kid gets a trophy for simply participating in a sport). Lofty medals should be reserved for those who go far above-and-beyond their everyday jobs, else the awarding dilutes the value and salutary prestige of the medal itself.

(more…)

Posted on July 30, 2012 at 09:56 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Leadership 101: The “sharpening iron” of the family

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

 Any organization – whether military, business or otherwise – must function as a team to be successful.

To be successful while simultaneously surviving all trials and tribulations hurled against it, the organization must function as a family; not a dysfunctional family mind you, but a family whose members are selfless, devoted, loving, unwaveringly-loyal yet unafraid to discipline one another, and committed to the family as a whole.

The truly gifted leader recognizes this, and demands it of his subordinate leaders.

“We will relate to one another as family”

This month, the senior leadership of the S.C. State Guard held a strategic planning conference in Camden, S.C. in which overall “mission” was discussed, solutions to challenges were proposed, commanders briefed – and were briefed by – attendees, and directives were issued.

For the record, the State Guard is the state defense force component of the broader S.C. Military Dept., which also encompasses the S.C. Army National Guard, the S.C. Air National Guard, and the Emergency Management Division.

It was a fascinating conference for a variety of reasons – not the least of which was the setting (the palatial home and sprawling law offices of international expedition-leader COL Thomas S. Mullikin, who also serves as the State Guard’s deputy commander) – but there also was proffered the sense of a new, emerging culture within the State Guard: The culture of family.

Sounds trite perhaps. But “family” is something that all truly great leaders have always embraced, though the idea of family is not always articulated.

During his opening remarks, Brig. Gen. Richard Eckstrom – the commanding general of the S.C. State Guard (and a retired U.S. Naval officer), who also serves as S.C. Comptroller General and chairman of the S.C. Military Base Task Force – discussed the importance of his own family; how every member of his family is vital to the whole. He then referred to the State Guard as a family, and he said matter-of-factly, “We [the State Guard] will relate to one another as family.”

(more…)

Posted on June 22, 2012 at 21:57 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Leadership 101: Running with a Sledgehammer

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

I used to tell my journalism students, any professional writer worth his or her salt (pardon the cliché) is able to write with deftness and some semblance of authority on just about any given topic. At least he or she better be able to at the beginning of their careers if they hope to break into the business and earn a living at it.

Flexibility, adaptability, and capability are keys to success in the writing business.

It’s the same for truly good leaders. A skilled leader should be able to lead different types of groups; and he or she needs to be flexible, adaptable, and capable to do it.

The men I led (and the mission I had) when I was a young Marine rifle-squad leader was infinitely different than the students I taught (and the responsibility I had to teach them) years later when I was an adjunct professor. That said, many of the fundamental principles – discussed at length in this series so far – were the same.

HAND AND TOOL

The ability to lead different groups requires an artful hand and lots of tools in the belt. Talented leaders should be able to apply different hands and tools with equal effect no matter the group to be led. Some leaders may balk at this notion, preferring to lead only in their niche, operating in their comfort zone. But great leaders want to lead groups outside of their zones.

(more…)

Posted on May 24, 2012 at 08:54 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Leadership 101: Are leaders born or made?

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Are leaders born or made? Should we even be asking the question?

We often talk about natural or “born leaders.” And there are persons with innate leadership traits to be sure. But no leader worth his or her salt exists without training and conditioning. And no leader will ever grow without experience and, yes, refining in the furnace of challenge and crisis.

So let’s get to the question, or – if you will – the debate. Perhaps there are variables that suggest some leaders are born to lead. But according to at least one expert, the born-vs.-made debate is fraught with problems for both those who will be led and the organization as a whole; and we’ll address those problems in a bit.

THE SO-CALLED BORN LEADER

We first begin to recognize leaders among our contemporaries as children in the schoolyard. Always there are one or two kids who immediately “assume command.” For them, leadership seems so effortless. That’s because children who lead are indeed born-leaders for lack of a better term. At the schoolyard level, that’s all they really can be. But the child-leader is born-to-lead only in a primal and frequently very temporary sense.

(more…)

Posted on May 10, 2012 at 13:16 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Leadership 101: Procrastination and Presence

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, arguably one of the greatest leaders in recorded history, valued time more than any other resource available to him. Churchill embraced time, never wasting an hour – often to the detriment of his health – and he refused to tolerate procrastination in any form, at any level, from any of his subordinates. He knew full-well procrastination meant failure and death; particularly in the time in history in which he was operating.

At some point in 1941, during the second year of Britain’s direct-involvement in World War II, Churchill began forwarding documents, dispatches, and memoranda affixed with a red sticker (similar to our modern day sticky notes) on which he had written three simple words, “ACTION THIS DAY.” This he did for the remainder of the war.

Time in war – just as time is in all high-stakes endeavors – is frequently that which decides the fate of nations. Sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s true. All truly great commanders and other leaders factor in the variable of time with the related variables of space, terrain, economy, chance, opportunity, risk, surprise, destiny and others. And time is always the most important variable.

When we look at the principles of war (which we will examine in greater detail in a forthcoming lesson) – depending on what nation’s principles – we see that time is either a principle, a sub-principle, or it is an unwritten absolute always factoring into a principle.

TIME IS the phantom cost 

Napoleon, at the height of a battle in 1803, purportedly said to a courier (just before sending that courier off with a message for one of his subordinate commanders), “Go, sir, gallop, and don’t forget the world was made in six days. You may ask me for anything you like except time.”

(more…)

Posted on April 25, 2012 at 13:25 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Leadership 101: Fear

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

In a recent Facebook post, Dr. Michael Youssef – an internationally recognized Evangelical-Anglican pastor – stated, “When we allow fear to control us, it deteriorates our relationship with God.”

That’s a relatively simple truth.

But some of Youssef’s readers responded by asking, “Well, then how do we eliminate fear?”

That was and is the wrong question.

Though most leaders know better, it is surprising the number of people – and I’m talking full-grown, reasonably educated adults – who still wrongly believe that courage means fearlessness or the absence of fear.

Courage is not the absence of fear. Without fear there is no need for courage. If we reread what Dr. Youssef is saying, we see that we must not let fear “control” us. That’s a far cry from saying we must eliminate fear.

FEAR ATTACKS THE FIVE MOUNTAINS

Fear exists. It’s here. It’s with us always; sometimes dormant and hibernating, but frequently gnawing at our physical, mental, emotional, intuitive and spiritual ramparts (Yes, we’re talking about the “five mountains”).

(more…)

Posted on April 12, 2012 at 17:42 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Leadership 101: Destiny Favors the Prepared

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

The world is chaotic (It’s only going to get worse), and destiny favors the prepared. These two realities are the first of what are known as the “eight stands of a warrior,” all of which we’ll cover in a forthcoming lesson.

Today we want to focus on destiny favoring the prepared, because – for the leader – both destiny and preparation are everything.

DESTINY 

First of all, what is destiny? My Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency.” In other words, destiny is what is going to happen whether we like it or not. And just how that destiny plays out has much to do with our preparation as leaders.

Granted, we have a great deal of control over the course we set for our futures, and charting a course has tremendous leverage in predetermining our futures. But pure destiny is in the hand of God.

PREPARE TO DEAL WITH DESTINY 

What about preparation? In previous lessons, we’ve discussed the five mountains – mind, body, intuition, emotional awareness (and control) and spirit – which must be achieved if we are to become the whole man (or whole woman) we desire to be as leaders. These five mountains – particularly the mind, body, and spirit – also serve as the underpinnings of any personal preparation.

We cannot fully control or prevent destiny. But we can prepare ourselves to deal with it. As leaders, we must.

(more…)

Posted on March 27, 2012 at 08:37 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Leadership 101: Crisis leadership

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Training builds leaders. Experience develops them. Crisis refines them. And crisis is coming, let’s not kid ourselves. It always has, always will. The leader enjoying the privilege of command today will have the burden of command forced upon him in the crisis tomorrow. There is no escaping it, nor should we as leaders want to escape it.

But we need reliable tools to deal with crisis.

First, we need professional knowledge and competency, information (intelligence), and the wisdom to apply both quickly while under extreme stress.

IGNORANCE IS NOT ENDEARING

In recent years, it has become increasingly socially acceptable not to know something, or not to know how to do something. For the leader in a crisis situation that is totally unacceptable. We, as leaders in a crisis, have to know. We have to have the answer.

Despite what the champions of self-esteem-building over competition would have us believe, there is nothing cute, charming, or endearing about ignorance of a topic. If we don’t know or don’t have the answer, we have to know how to find out what we don’t know. There is an answer somewhere; the age of electronic information has pretty much guaranteed that. And if a leader is incapable of finding the answer expeditiously, he or she has no business leading a dog sled. Period.

(more…)

Posted on March 16, 2012 at 08:41 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Leadership 101: Unlocking our Spirituality

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Spirituality – the fifth element we must master if we are to achieve the whole-man (whole-woman) foundation in our quest for true leadership – may well-be the most challenging of the “five mountains” to climb (The other four mountains being the body, the mind, emotion, and intuition; which we’ve discussed here, here, and here).

Challenging to master to be sure; spirituality is also the most challenging to teach. It’s even more challenging to convince leadership students and fledgling leaders why it is so important. Yet it is perhaps the key foundational underpinning of any true leader.

GREAT CAPTAINS AND KINGS 

History’s great captains have always known and appreciated the value of spirituality. The Bible, for instance, is full of these extraordinary leaders. And for the past 2,000 years, the world’s most celebrated battlefield commanders and most revered heads-of-state have not only embraced spirituality in their own lives, but they have openly and unapologetically acknowledged the critical necessity of the presence of God in their armies and nations.

“A good Christian will never make a bad soldier,” said Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus in the 17th century.

Our own George Washington, regularly appealed to God for strength and guidance, demanded – when he was commanding-general of the Continental Army – that his troops follow the teachings of the Bible, and he frequently wrote about the importance of it; as did Pres. Abraham Lincoln and most of our nation’s other chief executives.

Pres. Ronald Reagan referred to prayer and the power of God as “the greatest tool that we have.”

(more…)

Posted on February 10, 2012 at 09:05 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
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