Military Review English Edition July-August 2014 - Page 28

Invest in a professional relationship with your subordinates and reach out to their families. Understand their goals and devote time to mentoring them. You know you have done right by your subordinates when they seek you out as a mentor, and when they achieve professional success years down the road. Never put your leaders in a bad situation. A strategic leader will deal with highly complex problems and likely will need to solve them quickly. It can be too easy to put undue pressure on subordinates, even unintentionally, when facing tough challenges. Subordinates want the team to be successful, and they want to support their leader. This represents power that any leader must employ carefully and thoughtfully. Therefore, you must avoid putting undue pressure on your subordinates, while still providing your boss the same timely, accurate advice and support you expect your subordinates to give you. Moreover, when your boss makes a decision, you must execute it as is if it was your own. You probably provide one of many information feeds your boss must consider, but the boss’s decisions may be predicated on other information or guidance unknown to you. Therefore, unless something is obviously missing or just does not make sense, you should proceed as directed. If you need to, huddle with your boss to gain understanding of the situation and his reasoning. Think completely outside your lane. Good strategic leaders know as much as possible about their roles and responsibilities, as well as those of other people that affect their organizations and missions. They have a thorough understanding of outside influences on their areas of responsibility. There is no artificial separation between the organizations of strategic leaders. Take the broadest possible view of everything that affects your lane and get smart about those things. Professional curiosity leads to greater understanding. The broader your informed perspective, the better service you provide others as a strategic leader. Challenge convention. Ask questions that challenge what passes as conventional wisdom in your organization. Challenge people to explain the status quo—why things are the way they are—especially when your instinct tells you your organization can do better. Trust your instinct, build confidence in your academic and analytical rigor to address problems, and produce thoroughly investigated decisions. 26 Develop a team of deep, critical thinkers who can wrestle a problem to the ground, work through the analytics, determine where your thinking is wrong or right, and build an accurate set of options for your consideration. Tell your boss when he is wrong. Sometimes the boss is wrong. There are different ways to bring it up, depending on the situation, but the best approach is always to use tact and candor. Communicating with your boss can be hard; telling him he is wrong is even harder. The best way to start usually is with private, faceto-face discussions, especially for contentious issues. You can bring up how you disagree with your boss in a meeting if asked. Conveying disagreement through staffs can be effective, as long as it is done respectfully. Creating a forum for diverse perspectives sometimes works. So does a written message or memorandum, but never surprise your boss with something in writing. Try to settle the issue orally first. Use writing to follow up. Pay attention to how your boss best receives certain kinds of information, and use good judgment. Build personal relationships. Personal relationships—friendships—can foster effective working relationships with counterparts in other organizations. Building friendly networks inside and outside your organization can greatly enhance your strategic leadership. Use your seniority to collaborate with other senior leaders outside your organization and agency to achieve common objectives. This is particularly important with interagency teaming. Friendly relationships with your counterparts in the Department of State, United States Agency for International Development, and other governmental agencies can be very valuable when making strategic-level decisions across the joint, interagency, international, and multinational community. Conclusion As a strategic leader, giving intent-based orders in a positive command climate where everyone understands their left and right limits is essential. Never lose perspective about what you are doing strategically and how it will play out tactically. This is a key to balancing intellectual energy with practical application. Know the facts before you make decisions; you can never be too well informed when dealing with tough problems. Operate through your network and within your spheres of influence to make various strategic July-August 2014  MILITARY REVIEW