How would you lead if you had no choice in who was on your team?
In the US military the leader has little or no say in the soldier, sailor, airman, or marine who will serve in her/his organization. Service members are assigned to units based on their occupational specialty and the needs of the unit. Commanders do not run “Help Wanted” advertisements listing the desired characteristics of the person they wish to hire. Unlike sports teams, commanders do not have the option to draft key players or to trade out team members for someone with another set of skills. Military leaders get what they get and must develop those people to the best of their abilities.
It’s not surprising that good military leaders are skilled developers of even the most marginally qualified people. Perpetually short-handed and over-tasked, military leaders can’t afford to waste a single ounce of human capital. And given that everyone in the organization is ultimately expendable—either through routine transfers of people in and out of the organization, or through combat loss—the smart leader makes sure that everyone on the team is trained to instantly take over someone else’s job, including the job of being the leader.
The lesson we take from military leadership is this: People are your most valuable resource. Everyone—even the most marginally qualified person—has untapped potential that must be developed if the organization hopes to succeed in its mission. Anyone of your people, even the lowest person on the team might be called upon to lead in a crisis—prepare them or prepare to fail.
Photo: The U.S. Army via Flickr