Leadership should be easy. Leaders want to lead well, and teams want to be led well. Plus, you can find endless books and resources on the subject.
So why is leadership so hard?
“What gets in the way is that leadership is personal, and we tend to think about what works for us,” says Major General Vinny Boles (retired). “We need to think about what works for them.”
For 33 years, Boles served in the U.S. military. He managed the nation’s $27 billion ammunition account and assumed command of the Army’s War Reserve equipment six weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks. He deployed to Kuwait with 142 personnel ahead of the Iraq invasion. In 90 days, the force grew to 8,000. In his final Army assignment, Boles served at the Pentagon overseeing logistics strategy for the 1.1-million-soldier branch.
Today, Boles is president of Vincent E. Boles Inc., a leadership and logistics consulting practice where he works with leaders to maximize returns on their most precious resource: people.
“I’ve worked with organizations who’ve had every single resource available, but if they did not have leadership, they failed,” Boles says.
Defining Success. Over his long career of working with people, Boles has identified four expectations of teams:
1. They want leaders to establish structure. This isn’t drawing wiring diagrams or boxes with dotted lines, Boles says. “I’m talking about how we use structure,” he says. “How many folks are spending their energy trying to figure out what you want instead of helping you get what you want?”
2. They want leaders to manage critical relationships to get work done. Some bosses enter the room and generate heat instead of light, Boles says. When you become involved in a process or decision, is your team excited or more stressed? Two types of leaders exist, he says. “The first one walks in and says, ‘Here I am.’ The other type of leader walks in and says, ‘There you are. How can I help you?’”
3. They want leaders to help them balance risk. This includes understanding, identifying and mitigating risks. Depending on employees’ age and experience, you’ll have to adapt your process. “You have to know what style works in the right place,” Boles says.
4. They want leaders to make decisions. “You are responsible for all decisions in your organization whether you make them or not,” Boles says. “You have to decide to decide.” Teams are frustrated when decisions are delayed or made without deliberation.
New Chapters. View this as your chance for a fresh start. This fall, whether you’re transitioning into leadership (see page 22), fine-tuning your grain marketing strategy (see page 48) or something else, make the choice to act.