They’ve Got You Now…

At the end of Heartbreak Ridge, GSG Highway turns to CPL Jones and says something like “They don’t need me anymore, besides they got you now.” This is truly an impressive quote on many levels. Many would argue that the main character in this movie is an ideal mentor or role model, but others would argue he is the very definition of as a Level 5 Leader. One of the benefits of this discussion and analysis is that the Gunny is a fictional character and not a real person, but tDSC00585he military is full of commissioned and non-commissioned officers who are less than perfect yet meet the definition of a Level 5 Leader. This article seeks to identify why the military successfully develops so many leaders who meet this definition.

Before looking at the reasons the military generates so many great leaders, a review of Level 5 Leadership in in order. At least two authors have discussed five levels of leadership, Jim Collins and John Maxwell. Collins’ five levels appear to receive the most attention, but a comparison between both author’s writings demonstrate similar ideas for each level.

Level 5 Leaders build enduring greatness by placing the needs of the organization above their own. They blend humility with personal will-power influencing others to accomplish great things. They do the things that need doing establishing demanding standards. They do not expect perfection but rather demand excellence & continuous improvement. They bask in the reflected glory of the spotlight of success focused on those they lead. They create sustainable leadership development programs ensuring organizational success long after they leave. Level 5 Leaders are well respected attracting others who want to follow them.

While purely fictional, the actions of Gunny Highway are exaggerated but typical of many military leaders. They are humble about their achievements by acknowledging the fact they could have only achieved success through the efforts of their followers. They set high standards and expect others to meet them not occasionally, but every day. They accomplish those things that need doing whether pleasant or distasteful. They demand their followers achieve excellence and continuously improve their performance. They provide junior leaders opportunities to lead, allowing them to make mistakes, hold them accountable and permit them to try again until they succeed. These actions set an example for those future leaders to follow when promoted.

Gunny Highway’s first impression of Jones and the other members of the platoon was unfavorable. He established high standards and through his will-power influenced them to achieve those standards and succeed. The platoon went from being the laughing stock of the post to a well-respected organization capable of meeting any challenge presented. He developed other leaders such as Jones and his Lieutenant who tripped when presented problems, but learned the value of adapting, improvising and overcoming to achieve success.

At the end of the day, it was Highway and his platoon were not favorable. Previous leaders allowed them to slack off becoming regarded as a bunch of out-of-control misfits who could never succeed let along achieve excellence. Highway know one day their lives could be at stake and pushed them to achieve and exceed military standards. After an emergency deployment to rescue stranded Americans it was Highway’s platoon on the top of the hill after enduring several battles and receiving the accolades of their commander. In true Level 5 fashion, Gunny denied having accomplished much, but rather thrust his followers into the spotlight. He was humble, demonstrated tremendous will-power, set high standards, developed others, expected continuous improvement from previous excellent results and set up his unit for continued greatness for years after his retirement. Who knows, in 20 years Gunny Jones could be the one leading the charge, achieving success and passing the glory onto a well-mentored Corporal when the Commanding General teleports to that forward position. Hooah!

Trainer = Leader

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   The Director of the Training Council opened the instructor development course congratulating the soon-to-be instructors on their selection for attendance. “You have entered a new level of your career. As an instructor, you represent management and to be successful you must be convincing as you present your training material to employees.” The Director could have said as instructors and trainers you are leaders. Even without the title, people selected by any organization to conduct training, whether members of the organization, or outside consultants, are leaders of that organization.

    Training is intended to change behaviors by influencing employees to conduct their activities in accordance with the procedures presented. The best definitions of leadership include descriptions of influencing others, providing motivation, sharing a vision or improving the organization. Trainers do all these things.

    Anytime the official leaders of an organization introduce change they typically provide some sort of training program. The training describes the desired change ensuring employees understand the new philosophy and can complete new processes. Frequently formal leaders, sometimes called managers, are called upon to conduct the training, but not always. How the trainer presents the material will either improve acceptance and success or result in rejection of ideas by employees and failure of the concept in practice. Training presented passionately in favor increases success and the trainer’s profile with senior leaders.

    Selection as an instructor gives line employees on opportunity to develop an appreciation for the vision of the top leaders in the organization. Most employees know where the organization is, but few at the bottom of the organizational chart really understand where the CEO wants to go. Becoming involved in the training infrastructure of an organization requires employees to take a few steps up the ladder improving their view of the destination. Employees who have demonstrated an ability to influence others in a positive fashion are more likely to be selected by managers to conduct organizational change training. Selection as a trainer provides an opportunity to learn more about the organizational culture and help senior leaders determine if those employees demonstrate abilities required to fulfill future leadership positions. Employees seeking ways to open the doors to formal leadership positions look for opportunities to teach and train. Often employees may be unaware their desire to teach mark them as future leaders, and all too often managers overlook those in training roles when leadership positions become available.

    If your eyes are raised higher up the organizational ladder here are several ways you can improve your chances of becoming a trainer and attracting the attention of you bosses. After attending a training, mention to your supervisor you would like an opportunity to present what you learned to others in your section at your next staff meeting. Once you receive approval, mention the training to some of your contacts in other sections or shifts. Their interest may draw them to the meeting increasing your exposure. A successful meeting may result in requests from others in the organization. Think about professional organizations for your career field and material you are qualified to present. Meeting attendance is improved when someone is scheduled to speak about a cutting edge topic. You may not receive any pay for your appearance, but the movers and shakers in the group will recognize your contribution and when the time comes to move along or they need to fill a leadership position you will be recognized as one with expertise.

   Trainers influence organizational culture and behavior. Learning to train others provides junior employees opportunities to show their leaders they possess skills to influence others and an ability to communicate important ideas and concepts. By creating quality training programs, trainers help management introduce important organizational changes focused on improvement. Standing in front of the crowd provides the trainer a spotlight to demonstrate their ability to organization leaders to influence others. As a trainer you are a leader in your organization. Change a life; change your organization; take time to train others and become a leader.

   Photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tippinst1/9142907874/in/photolist-eVVMYE-eVJo6c-eVJoGH-eVJoCe-eVVNkj-eVJoMV-eVJnEP-eVJnup-eVVNqm-dQfD4p-dQmfx9-dQfDjk-dQmfE7-dQfNpg-dQmfCu-dQmfBs-dQmpA1-dQmftL-dQi58o-dQctjK-dQcte6-dQmfyd-dQmpvb-dQi5vj-dQfNir-dQfDcv-dQmpqS-dQfNjc-dQhQ7f-dQmpBS-dQmpxq-dQfD6n-dQctia-dQmfo1-dQi5iY-dQfNog-dQcdez-efkXb2-5JNgcc-dQmfKj-dQmfqq-dQmfn9-dQfDkM-dQctfV-dQm9xN-dQm9wJ-dQcuc2-dQmh6S-dQm3Z3-dQibYW-dQm4Qu/lightbox/