Become a Better Leader Through Balancing Differences

Leadership training and development in our military takes place on two fronts. First, officers identify, build, and utilize the skills that will allow individuals and teams to effectively and efficiently achieve their goal. Second, officers focus on training methods and techniques that will allow those same individuals and teams to practice effective combat and leadership skills in the fields.

The same types of leadership training and development can also serve leaders in your organization – beginning with you.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

With their first book, Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin set a new standard for leadership, challenging readers to become better leaders, better followers, and better people, in both their professional and personal lives.

Now, in The Dichotomy of LeadershipJocko and Leif dive even deeper into the unchartered and complex waters of a concept first introduced in Extreme Ownership: finding balance between the opposing forces that pull every leader in different directions. Here, Willink and Babin get granular into the nuances that every successful leader must navigate.

Mastering the Dichotomy of Leadership requires understanding when to lead and when to follow; when to aggressively maneuver and when to pause and let things develop; when to detach and let the team run and when to dive into the details and micromanage. In addition, every leader must:

  • Take Extreme Ownership of everything that impacts their mission; yet utilize Decentralize Command by giving ownership to their team. 
  • Care deeply about their people and their individual success and livelihoods, yet look out for the good of the overall team and above all accomplish the strategic mission. 
  • Exhibit the most important quality in a leader―humility, but also be willing to speak up and push back against questionable decisions that could hurt the team and the mission.

With examples from the authors’ combat and training experiences in the SEAL teams, and then a demonstration of how each lesson applies to the business world, Willink and Babin clearly explain THE DICHOTOMY OF LEADERSHIPskills that are mission-critical for any leader and any team to achieve their ultimate goal: VICTORY.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

The most difficult – and essential – element of leadership requires finding the balance between opposing forces that exist for every leader.

The list of dichotomies is infinite. Because for every positive behavior a leader should have, it is possible to take that behavior to the extreme, where it becomes a negative. Often a leader’s greatest strength can also be his or her greatest weakness. But knowing and understanding that these dichotomies exist is the first part of keeping them from becoming a problem.

A good leader builds powerful, strong relationships with his or her subordinates. But while that leader would do anything for those team members, the leader must recognize there is a job to do. And that job might put the very people the leader cares so much about at risk.

The key is balance, maintaining an equilibrium where your team have the guidance to execute but at the same time freedom to make decisions and lead.

There are limitless dichotomies in leadership, and a leader must carefully balance between these opposite forces. But none are as difficult as this: to care deeply for each individual member of the team, while at the same time accepting the risks necessary to accomplish the mission.

This dichotomy reveals itself in the civilian sector as well as the military. This is one of the most difficult dichotomies to balance, and it can be easy to go too far in either direction. If leaders develop overly close relationships with their people, they may not be willing to make those people do what is necessary to compete a project or a task. They may not have the wherewithal to lay off individuals with who they have relationship even if it is the right move for the good of the company. And some leaders get so close to their people that they don’t want to have hard conversations with them – they don’t want to tell them that they need to improve.

On the other hand, if a leader is too detached from the team, he or she may overwork, overexpose, or otherwise harm its members while achieving no significant value from that sacrifice. The leader may be too quick to fire people to save a buck, thereby developing the reputation of not caring about the team beyond its ability to support the strategic goals.

So leaders must find the balance. They must push hard without pushing too hard. They must drive their team to accomplish the mission without driving them off a cliff.

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, The Dichotomy of Leadership

A NEXT STEP

In order for leaders to find the balance described above, authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin had developed two checklists: one with common symptoms resulting from a leader being too close to a team, and the other which indicates a leader might be too hands-off with his team.

Reproduce each of the two lists below on separate chart tablets, and review them first by yourself. Add to the lists as needed.

Then, bring the sheets into your next team meeting for a general team discussion about this dichotomy of leadership.

Too Close to Your Team

  1. Bold and aggressive action becomes rare.
  2. Creativity grinds to a halt.
  3. Even in an emergency, the team will not mobilize and take action.
  4. The team shows a lack of initiative; members will not take action unless directed.
  5. An overall sense of passivity and failure to react.

Too Far Away from Your Team

  1. Lack of vision in what the team is trying to do and how to do it.
  2. Lack of coordination between individuals on the team and efforts that often compete or interfere with each other.
  3. Initiative oversteps the bounds of authority; individuals and teams carry out actions beyond what they have authorization to do.
  4. The team is focused on the wrong priority mission or pursuit of solutions that are not in keeping with the strategic direction of the team.
  5. There are too many people trying to lead.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 119-2, released May 2019


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Practice Extreme Ownership

What your church can learn from the mission-focused leadership of the United States Armed Forces.

A clear, executable mission is the key to success for every branch of the military. An outstanding attention to teamwork and training make the United States Armed Forces the most formidable fighting force on the planet. Leadership is just as important to each service branch as it is to your church.

In recognition of Armed Forces Day (May 20, 2017) and to honor of the commitment and sacrifice of the men, women and families of the U.S. military, SUMS Remix brings you a key action of mission success found in the U.S. Navy Seals:

Practice extreme ownership.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Sent to the most violent battlefield in Iraq, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s SEAL task unit faced a seemingly impossible mission: help U.S. forces secure Ramadi, a city deemed “all but lost.” In gripping firsthand accounts of heroism, tragic loss, and hard-won victories in SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, they learned that leadership―at every level―is the most important factor in whether a team succeeds or fails.

Willink and Babin returned home from deployment and instituted SEAL leadership training that helped forge the next generation of SEAL leaders. After departing the SEAL Teams, they launched Echelon Front, a company that teaches these same leadership principles to businesses and organizations. From promising startups to Fortune 500 companies, Babin and Willink have helped scores of clients across a broad range of industries build their own high-performance teams and dominate their battlefields.

Now, detailing the mind-set and principles that enable SEAL units to accomplish the most difficult missions in combat, Extreme Ownership shows how to apply them to any team, family, or organization. Each chapter focuses on a specific topic such as Cover and Move, Decentralized Command, and Leading Up the Chain, explaining what they are, why they are important, and how to implement them in any leadership environment.

A compelling narrative with powerful instruction and direct application, Extreme Ownership revolutionizes business management and challenges leaders everywhere to fulfill their ultimate purpose: lead and win.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Today’s Naval Special Warfare operators – SEALs, for Sea, Air, and Land – can trace their origins to the Scouts and Raiders, Naval Combat Demolition Units, Underwater Demolition Teams, and Motor Torpedo Boat Squadrons of World War II. Their pioneering efforts in unconventional warfare are mirrored in the missions and professionalism of the present Naval Special Warfare teams.

The principles critical to SEAL success on the battlefield – how SEALS train and prepare their leaders, how they mold and develop high-performance teams, and how they lead in combat – are directly applicable in any group, organization, corporation, or business.

For SEAL teams, the beginning and foundational leadership principle is this: the leader is truly and ultimately responsible for everything.

The best leaders don’t just take responsibility for their job. They take Extreme Ownership of everything that impacts their mission.

This fundamental core concept enables SEAL leaders to lead high-performing teams in extraordinary circumstances and win. But Extreme Ownership isn’t a principle whose application is limited to the battlefield. This concept is the number-one characteristic of any high-performance winning team, in any military unit, organization, sports team or business team in any industry.

When subordinates are not doing what they should, leaders that exercise Extreme Ownership cannot blame the subordinates. They must first look in the mirror at themselves. The leader bears full responsibility for explaining the strategic mission, developing the tactics, and securing the training and resources to enable the team to properly and successfully execute.

Extreme Ownership requires leaders to look at an organization’s problems through the objective lens of reality, without emotional attachments to agendas or plans. It mandates that a leader set ego aside, accept responsibility for failures, attaché weakness, and consistently work to build a better and more effective team.

Such a leader does not take credit for his or her team’s successes, but bestows that honor upon his subordinate leaders and team members. When a leader sets such an example and expects this from junior leaders within the team, the mindset develops into the team’s culture at every level.

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, Extreme Ownership

A NEXT STEP

As the senior leader of a staff team, or as a staff member leading a ministry team, the principle of Extreme Ownership means that you have the responsibility for everything that occurs with your team – everything.

To begin utilizing the concept of Extreme Ownership, select a recent ministry activity that did not go as well as you had planned. On a chart tablet, write the activity and date at the top.

On the chart tablet, review the development of the activity, by listing the genesis of the idea, discussion and planning prior to the activity itself, and all individuals along with their specific responsibilities in carrying out the activity. In addition, list any external factors that may have impacted the result of the activity.

Go over the chart tablet in detail with the following questions in mind:

  1. What leadership support did I provide in the genesis of the activity?
  2. How did my words and actions affect the initial planning of the activity?
  3. How involved was I through direct or indirect decision-making in the initial planning?
  4. Once initial planning had begun, did I connect on a regular basis with the leaders of specific tasks?
  5. If so, did I encourage them, offering additional training or insights as needed?
  6. Did I pull all the leaders together regularly to briefly review their individual progress toward the common goal?
  7. If so, did I help them understand how their individual and team success would lead to the success of the overall goal?
  8. On the day before the activity, did the team meet to verbally run through the activity’s main actions?
  9. If so, what was your level of participation? Did you verbally support and affirm your subordinate’s plans or critically suggest other options?
  10. At the activity itself, what was your role?
  11. How often did you circulate around during the activity and speak to your subordinates?
  12. How did you “take notes” during the activity for later discussions?
  13. Did you realize during the activity that it had not met your expectations?
  14. At the conclusion of the activity, how did you thank everyone for his or her involvement?
  15. Did you have a preplanned “debrief” of the activity, or was it only after you realized things didn’t go as planned?

To successfully complete an activity, or lead change, or to challenge people to accomplish a difficult or complex task, you can’t make people deliver the result you envision. You have to lead them.

Extreme Ownership is a mind-set and attitude. When leaders practice Extreme Ownership and develop a culture of Extreme Ownership within their teams, the rest will begin to fall in place.


Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 41-1, published May 2016


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.