You might think that generals have an easy ride as managers; not all of us can simply order our colleagues around. But inspiring ‘zeal’, argues US Brigadier General John Michel in the Harvard Business Review, is another thing entirely. Currently helping NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, the General suggests four imperatives for teamwork when the challenges really are life-and-death.
1. Keep your ears open
Great ideas don’t usually come from the top of an organization, General Michel points out, but from the middle. That’s why it’s vital to listen to what others are saying, no matter, and perhaps because of, how different they are from your own. And for others to approach you, you need to appear willing to take advice.
2. The spirit of service
Your colleagues, customers and competitors will be quick to figure out whether you’re really dedicated to the job, or simply helping yourself rise through the ranks. To dispel feelings of the latter type, be willing to put others needs and desires first, and trust them to give you 100 per cent of their abilities.
3. Ask great questions
In a similar vein to General Michel’s first point, he also recommends going out of your way to get the opinions of others. He advises leaders to follow Albert Einstein’s insistence on being ‘passionately curious’ – and also to remember that your colleagues are too. By asking them questions, you can tap into their curiosity.
4. Don’t fall prey to your own publicity
The danger of modern spin and sensationalism, warns the General, is it makes us prioritise others’ affirmation and praise over our own objective thinking. Furthermore, it can lure us into the belief that our colleagues are simply in our path to help us succeed, which makes it near impossible to take their opinions or contributions seriously.
A serving US General outlines his four essentials for outstanding leadership.