"Whenever we have a problem, we call for better\n\nleadership and more training." That appraisal was offered by Col.\n\nGeorge Reed, who teaches at the U.S. Army War College, a leading\n\nmilitary strategy school. \n\nAs Reed says, "We value leadership so highly that as a matter of\n\nculture we see it as a solution to everything. The truth is, good\n\nleadership and training will have a positive impact on most things, but\n\noveremphasis can result in overlooking other important variables." That\n\nassessment pulled me up short: leadership is the salient edge in every\n\nhigh-performing organization. But Reed is correct. Leadership cannot\n\nexist within a vacuum. It must open the door for other initiatives,\n\nsuch as learning and individual accountability. \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n Sharing the Leadership Load \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThe military prides itself on instilling leadership into all the ranks,\n\nfrom enlisted to senior officers. Unlike the corporate sector,\n\nleadership in military is not assumed; it is taught and then expected\n\nto be put into practice. Coupled with leadership is the sense of\n\nresponsibility, being accountable for your actions, from ordering\n\nsupplies to sending troops into combat. \n\nWhen things go wrong, as they are wont to do in any organization, Col.\n\nReed suggests that leaders ask questions about the organization, the\n\ncontext, policies and available resources. One of the findings at Abu\n\nGhraib for instance was that the soldiers responsible for guarding\n\nIraqis were from a military police unit, not trained for the hazards of\n\na maximum security prison located in hostile territory. Hence, as Reed\n\nnotes, they were out of their depth as well as unduly pressured to\n\nproduce enemy intelligence. Consequently, the U.S.-Iraqi prison system\n\nwas set up for failure. It was absent training, resources, proper\n\nsupervision and leadership.\n\nLeadership is not reserved for the big issues, nor is learning.\n\nBoth must be integrated into the culture of the organization and\n\ncontinually taught, expected, practiced and renewed. From leadership\n\nand learning emerge a sense of accountability, a form of personal\n\nleadership that makes people responsible for outcomes. The job of\n\npushing leadership, learning and accountability falls to managers. \n\n\n\nHere are some ways to instill this practice into your organization.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nDistribute thinking. Well-meaning managers want their people to\n\ndo for themselves, but all too often they short-circuit the process by\n\nissuing orders instead of taking time to think first. To be fair,\n\nmanagers are put into positions where they can only react (get the job\n\ndone) rather than pro-act (think first). So here\u2019s a suggestion. When\n\ncircumstances permit, say at the start of a project or the start of the\n\nbusiness cycle, call people together and ask for their input in how to\n\napproach the project, how to circumvent obstacles and how to hurdle\n\nthose obstacles when they arise. A moment taken to think first can\n\nprevent a month of cure. Coach for specifics. Very often, managers issue directives that\n\nare vague and ambiguous. For example, a manager may ask an employee to\n\ndemonstrate more creativity or more initiative. The what, where, why\n\nand how are left to the employee\u2019s imagination; and hence the\n\ndirectives are left undone. Here\u2019s where coaching comes in; it focuses\n\non specifics, what actions an employee can take to improve her\n\nperformance. Then, if a manager wants more initiative, he can suggest\n\nways to demonstrate that initiative such as developing a plan, forming\n\na team or executing against criteria. The more specific a manager can\n\nbe, the greater he increases the odds of encouraging an employee\u2019s own\n\ncreativity, and ultimately responsibility and leadership. (Hint: Giving\n\nspecifics does not circumvent thinking. It merely provides the employee\n\nwith a suggested roadmap that can be modified with the employee\u2019s own\n\nideas.)\n\n\n\n\n\nPromote ingenuity. Troops engaged in combat situations are among\n\nthe most resourceful of all teams. Today, we see soldiers armoring\n\ntheir military with scrap iron scrounged from the streets of Iraq.\n\nThose soldiers are not waiting around for supplies or even for Donald\n\nRumsfeld; they are applying their own ingenuity. Entrepreneurial\n\nstartups are equally resourceful. A leading reason why Japanese\n\nmanufacturers of a half-century ago pioneered just-in-time\n\nmanufacturing along with the quality control measures of Deming and\n\nJuran was because of scarce resources. You will find that same\n\ningenuity in resource-deprived startups from Silicon Valley to\n\nBangalore. Committed people with good ideas find away way to make\n\nthings happen.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n The limits of Leadership \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n"Imagine the organization that has been given a Herculean task with\n\ninsufficient resources to accomplish it," says Col. Reed. "We\u2019ll run\n\ngood leaders into the ground if we try to train and lead our way out of\n\nthat situation." Again, leadership is not a universal panacea. In fact,\n\nleaders are really not responsible for all of the doing; they set the\n\ndirection for others to carry through. \n\nLeadership demands delegation, asking others to share in the load. At\n\nthe same time, leaders must ensure that their employees have the\n\nauthority and responsibility to get the job done. For example, if a\n\nmanager asks an engineer to be a project manager but neglects to assign\n\npeople to her team, then the project is doomed to failure. The engineer\n\nmay be held responsible for missing the deadline, but in reality it is\n\nher manager who is at fault. \n\nSuccessful organizations are those that value learning and expect their\n\npeople to learn from their mistakes as well as their successes so that\n\nthey grow their own skills. With such knowledge comes empowerment and\n\naccountability. That is leadership on a personal level, one that can\n\npropel the entire organization forward.