I've spent considerable time working in change and leadership roles across many industries, but I always look back on my time in the Army with great fondness, for lessons on leadership and how to work with people.
One of the things that is instilled into every junior leader in the Army is that it's a big responsibility to be in command, and above all things, you must do everything possible to take care of your people.
I know that military leadership is far from perfect, but the values of team and mutual support for leaders and followers alike is a rare find in the civilian environment. Sadly, too many executives rely on bureaucracy and formal authority to exercise control. While it's appropriate for organisations to invest in developing structured approaches to managing work and enforcing discipline, performance can only be improved through good teamwork and having a workplace where people take care of one another.
A University of Sydney survey reported in the Financial Review Boss magazine in 2013 entitled Crisis in Business Leadership points to several failings in how Australian organisations are being led. Of interest to me is the preliminary evidence that there is too much focus on administrative performance over the need to motivate and support staff. I just hope that people in leadership roles occasionally take a moment to review their own behaviours and check that they do know and support their people.
All enlightened managers must be aware by now that people usually want to do a good job, and will perform if they know someone is looking out for them rather than supervising them.
My recollection of what seems to work for the military is a serious investment in developing and maintaining a culture of leadership that supported the belief that people must come first.
About the author: Mark Schroffel is a Partner in the Melbourne-based strategy consulting firm Schroffel, Renwick & Beeson. As a lifelong student of strategy and organisational change, Mark coordinates discussion groups and seminars on contemporary approaches to organisational leadership and strategy planning. Mark’s qualifications include an MBA, a Graduate Certificate in Change Management, and a Bachelor of Science is Psychology. He is also a graduate of the Royal Military College (Duntroon). Mark recently completed Stanford University’s selective eight-course Professional Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.