There I was, no kidding, in a Bible study group when our class leader gave us a list of rights a leader gives up. Although I have searched for the author of the list, it still remains anonymous (if someone knows who created it, I will gladly give them the credit).
Now this wasn’t a military group, but as I reviewed the fifteen rights we give up as leaders I knew the thoughts exhibited the values of a military professional. So, I asked some of my fellow Arkansas National Guard leaders for feedback and have assembled our thoughts on these fifteen rights we give up when we take on the role of the leader.
The right to be a jerk – Toxic and narcissistic leaders have proven to be problematic to many organizations in recent years. These leaders often treat subordinates as less-important, belittle and embarrass others publicly, and miss the critical aspect of “Respect,” our military value. Remember, praise in public, counsel in private.
The right to complain – “You never gripe or complain down the chain of command” is an old military adage leaders must take to heart. As leaders we have a responsibility to provide the best advice and recommendations we can to our commander. However, once the commander makes a decision, regardless of whether or not it is based on our recommendation, we must support that decision as if it was our own. To do otherwise is turning a blind eye to “Loyalty,” one of our military values. This means maintaining a warrior attitude and managing our composure even in the face of personal or professional disagreement.
The right to be lazy – Leaders create organizational climates through their actions. The energy that a leader displays is what others will follow and emulate. When a military leader cuts corners someone could die. When a leader works hard, pays attention to details, and strives for excellence they exhibit the Army value of “Duty.”
The right to stay in control – No one likes being around a "control freak". As a leader, if you can't lose control and allow your organization to thrive then you are limiting that organizations potential. Theodore Roosevelt said, "The best executive is one who has the sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it." Losing control ultimately makes you as a leader more valuable to the organization.
The right to get my own way – It’s not all about the leader and what they want; it’s all about the team we lead and what we can achieve. Some leaders have a misplaced sense of purpose, and that “it’s all about me.” The mature leader understands it’s all about our Soldiers. When we put the needs of who we command first; everything else falls into place.
The right to take a break from my role – Our leadership role is a 24/7 responsibility, and others are always watching to see how we act. Our profession of arms demands our commitment to the highest standards and values at all times. Unprofessional behavior is not acceptable at any time. There is no ‘off-duty’ time for the leader who understands their role.
The right to get attention – Leaders should never seek the spotlight and those who do usually find themselves quickly blinded by their lack of respect for others. Leaders should look to always recognize the accomplishments of the individuals and teams that make the unit successful. That's who deserves the attention and recognition. Their success is our success.
The right to exclude people – Transparency is important, and sharing information is a critical function of the leader. Without it, our people will create their own perception of “the truth.” Sometimes we must maintain control of classified information, but controlling or hoarding other information is problematic. Power is unleashed in our organization when we invite as many as possible to share our vision, our reasoning, our values, and our knowledge.
The right to ignore rules – Subordinates are constantly watching their leaders to see what right looks like. The rules apply to everyone, and the leader not only sets the standard, but also maintains that standard with their day-to-day actions and decisions. If you ignore a rule or standard, don’t be surprised when your subordinates follow your lead.
The right to neglect my growth – The best leaders are lifetime learners, who constantly are open to new personal and leadership skills, approaches, and tactics. We all enjoy being in our comfort zone, but challenging ourselves to new ways of doing things, and the feedback from others ensures we remain effective and relevant. Expand your leadership repertoire, be open to feedback, continue your military and civilian education, and stretch yourself.
The right to have things the way I want them - As one of my mentors once said, Leaders are the first to suffer inconveniences, and the last to enjoy the comforts of the position. The mature leader puts aside their personal ambitions and comfort for the good of the organization.
The right to set my own schedule – As a leader you have a responsibility to the needs of the organization, making it necessary to set your schedule according to organizational priorities, not your own. For the military professional this means rearranging personal events around required training events, or choosing to travel at inconvenient times to be present when needed for meetings or activities. Bottom line, we all volunteer to place the organization first when we assume a leadership role.
The right to speak my mind – Leaders must consider the impact their words have on an organization, good and bad, and ensure the correct message is sent at the correct time to the correct people. This is why they give up the right to make rash, uniformed comments. Biting our tongue does less damage than the careless comment in the wrong setting. Strong, positive, effective communication is the most important thing a leader can provide to the organization.
The right to make ultimatums – Subordinates perceive ultimatums as threats which are rarely effective, create inflexible situations, and force everyone (including the leader) into a corner. Former President Ronald Regan once said, in part, “You’ll probably get more of what you want if you don’t use ultimatums and leave your adversary room to maneuver.” Most people do not react to ultimatums in a positive manner, so use them sparingly and only as a last resort.
The right to be me – You are no longer an individual, you are a part of a larger group and your voice and actions represent that group. You are the face and leader of an organization with its own goals and objectives. You represent the organization at all times and must put aside your individuality to set the example of our values every day.