Leading for self and others

I don’t often use my blog to repeat other people’s thoughts, but when they are exceptional, I’m very happy to make an exception. Richard Holmes, who died almost five years ago, was a reservist Army Brigadier and a renowned military historian. He was also one of the nicest, most decent men that you could hope to meet. His ’10 Diseases of Leadership’ popped up on my LinkedIn feed this weekend, and it reminded me not only how much he is missed, but also what great advice he gave. I repeat his thoughts here as we all have a leadership role to play in our jobs, be they front-line or in management. In short, if you can recognise yourself in any of the statements below, have a think about how you might change your approach.

1. Lack of moral courage. In the military, physical courage is often supported by the sense of team and shared commitment to a specific task. Moral courage is often a far lonelier position, and so that much harder to undertake in practice.

2. Failure to recognize that opposition can be loyal. Encourage constructive dissent rather than have destructive consent.

3. Consent and evade. Do not consent to a plan that you do not agree with then evade its implications by doing something different without telling your leader.

4. There is a need to know and you don’t need to know. Some people use information and access to it to reinforce their leadership position.

5. Don’t bother me with the facts. I’ve already made up my mind.There is always a point where the detail of a plan is confirmed, after which there is a tendency to ignore any new information that might suggest a change to that plan is required. The British as a people have a greater tendency than most to succumb to this.

6. The quest for the 100% solution. A good plan in time is better than a great plan too late.

7. Equating the quality of the advice with the position of the person providing it. Wisdom and insight are not linked inextricably to rank and experience.

8. I’m too busy to win. Failure to exploit opportunities that arise by being focused on routine work.

9. I can do your job too. Avoid the temptation to slip back into your old comfort zones. It will smother others.

10. Big person, cold shadow. Consider the effect of your presence and involvement in a task. Will it help or hinder?

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