A few years back, I was having breakfast with 3-star Army general Mike Jones, who had just retired from active duty.
Mike had been a high-ranking operative in U.S. special forces commands and his leadership credentials were impeccable, having led thousands of army troops and large organizations. We were discussing leadership principles, and Mike offered his perspectives on the importance of honor, integrity and ethical behavior in our military leaders.
He then asked me for my thoughts and what I taught. I explained my experiences, both in the military and in education working with corporate groups. My emphasis was on the power of listening and other skills I found to be simple but central to the responsibilities of leaders.
I will never forget his response as he slapped the table and bellowed, “That is Leadership 101, everyone knows that!” I then explained that yes, everyone knew that, but did they really practice those kinds of skills on a regular basis? I had learned from my experience in the Navy, corporate settings and business research that the even the most gifted leaders suffered setbacks when they failed to demonstrate in critical situations some of the simplest skills that everyone knows.
In the years since that discussion – and having continued work with leaders at all levels from corporate executives to entry-level managers – I have grown even more assured in the power of understanding the basics and demonstrating them on a daily basis.
In my coming discussions in Insights articles, I will work to encourage you to rely on these basics, as well. You’ll find even my definition of leadership is simple: Whenever two or more people set out to accomplish something together, there is an opportunity for leadership.
In essence, we are always leading. Opportunities abound every day, whether you are organizing a group lunch, a car pool, a steering committee or making a major strategic business decision. If you understand the basics and defer to sound principles, you will accomplish your goals.
I often refer to the example of Hall of Fame golfer Ben Hogan and his emphasis on the basics. In 1957, at the height of his professional career, Hogan wrote Five Lessons, a description of the modern fundamentals of golf. In just over 100 pages, he described in clear and concise detail everything you need to know about swinging a golf club and developing the ability to successfully lower your scores.
Since Hogan’s book, dozens of other books and thousands of magazine articles have gone into excruciating detail about what you can do to lower your golf score, but I will challenge you to find anything new being said that was not already clearly presented in Hogan’s book about simple principles. (Golfers note: you have to read this book.)
The same holds true in the development of our leadership skills. We can read dozens of books and articles, watch endless TED talks and sit through hours of courses and lectures, but if we are not boiling the material down to basics that we practice on a daily basis, we are wasting our time. It’s not what you know, it’s what you understand and do!
So, please join me in these regular discussions that I intend to offer to help guide you on your leadership journey. Together, we can explore the basics and develop strategies to take us from knowing to doing and thus, inspiring our teams to achieve results!
Ron works with emerging leaders, execs, entrepreneurs and managers who want to sharpen their leadership skills and inspire their teams to achieve a level of performance beyond their imagination. He does this by providing high-impact, energizing programs that give the participants an opportunity to learn and practice the guiding principles of leadership that are crucial to establishing a success-oriented environment. You already know a lot about leadership, Ron helps you to amp it up and put it all together so that you use your abilities in a disciplined fashion every day to achieve results?! His course participants are unanimous in their feedback, "I wish I had attended earlier in my career." He has also brought his Leadership Excellence Course to the Battleship North Carolina, where participants learn in a most inspiring environment how to motivate people, the power of integrity, the reasons for good feedback and many other defining leadership principles that help leaders and teams get to the next level and achieve results. You can check out some other course opportunities at AcademyLeadership.com. Look in the Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and Wilmington areas.
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The 2023 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.