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Thursday, July 24, 2014


In honor of the Army's 239th birthday, here are some of the top leadership lessons Bill Murphy, Jr. learned from serving in and reporting on the United States Army. The list has 23 total -- and it's an outstanding list.  I hope you will click here to read the entire article from Murphy -- guaranteed to be worth your time.  But here are few that stood out to me (with some additional comments by me in Bold-Italics):
4. Scrounge for resources
If you have every necessary asset to accomplish a goal when you first set out, either you're incredibly fortunate or you haven't set your sights high enough. Truly great leaders know that pursuing worthy goals means pushing teams beyond their abilities and assets. It's why we say that true entrepreneurship is "the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled."  This reminds me of the book Coach Don Meyer would encourage all to read -- "Make The Big Time Where You're At" by Frosty Westering.  It's about finding a way to get the job done regardless of what you may or may not have to work with.  As Bob Knight would say, "the greatest thing a coach can have is an imagination.

7. Correct when wrong
Leadership isn't about being liked. It's about acting in a way that engenders respect, which also means holding your team accountable. When individual team members fall short, it's up to you as a great leader to correct them. Doing so in a constructive manner sends the message that you care about both your mission and your people.  As coaches our ability to correct is critical to teaching the habits we need our players to develop to be successful.  And please understand that there is a correct way to correct.  It doesn't need to be demeaning.  You don't want the corrective instruction lost in your tone.

9. Mentor your people
Being a true leader means thinking long term and committing to your people even after they're no longer part of your effort. That means offering mentorship and opportunities for them to grow.  As a coach, I would tell our student-athletes that I was going to be their coach for four years but for the rest of their lives.  I take great pride in my relationships with my players after college and I think it makes our relationships better during.

13. Review and adapt
As a leader, you don't just set a goal, devise a plan, give an order, and sit back. Instead, it's up to you to check progress continually. If things aren't working, figure out why, and make a change. You've probably heard the Albert Einstein quote: Insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." So don't do that!  To me, the one word that has grown in importance during my coaching career is flexibility.  The ability to have a set plan of action but to be able to adjust when necessary.  Rigid will get you beat.

16. Find reasons to praise
It's remarkable how just a few good words from someone you respect can inspire you to work harder and achieve more. Great leaders know this, so they're always on the lookout for opportunities to offer words of praise and encouragement. The caveat is that these have to be sincere remarks, which in turn means you have to know your people well and care about them.  Once again a Coach Don Meyer phrase comes to mind: "Catch 'em doing something right."  And just as with correcting, there is a right way and a wrong way to praise.  As a coach I think it needs to be immediate as well as detailed.  You don't just say, "Good pass."  You say "Good job of passing away from the direction."  The second one tells them WHY it was good creating a better opportunity to that to be repeated.

17. Take time away
This came home to me when I was in Iraq as a reporter, and I wanted to interview a high-ranking officer, only to be told that he had gone home on leave--basically the military word for vacation. I'm sorry, a general on vacation in the middle of a war? The theory was that if the top commanders didn't take leave, then nobody below them would, either. You need time away from your work and your team in order to see things clearly and lead better.  Stephen Covey referred to it as "sharpening the saw."  You've got to recharge the batteries to keep things energized.

18. Thank and appreciate
Thanking people is different from simply offering encouragement. It means pointing out the connection between their individual effort and how it affects the ultimate objective. It's a basic human need to want to do good work that means something. Show people that you see their work and value it.  The value of a sincere thank you can not be overstated.  It can be done in a variety of ways...a personal handwritten note...acknowledgement in front of peers...but it goes a long way in creating a culture of appreciation.

23. Leap out of bed
See Rule No. 21 and Rule No. 22. If you don't leap out of bed each morning eager to get to work and lead your team, it probably deserves a better leader.  My wife will tell you that I get out of bed excited to work. I'm blessed to be passionate about what I do, where I do it, and whom I do it with -- and I wish the same for you!