Last week, we started a series about how to employ the 11 leadership principles from the United States Army into our family lives. The first 3 we discussed were:
- Set the example
- Know yourself and seek self-improvement
- Be technically and tactically proficient
Go back and re-read those if you need a refresher or if you missed them. This week, we want to drive on with 4 more we hope will help us on our journey towards effectively leading our families.
- Keep your people informed — In the Army, we always worked towards a common goal and while the big overarching picture may not have been understood by everyone in the unit, for one reason or another – whether that be safety or just need to know, everyone always seemed to do their best work when we knew why we were working on our part of the mission. This principle takes more finesse in the family than it might have in the Army, depending on the age of your kids, but it’s important nonetheless.Keeping our families informed definitely helps open the lines of communication. This doesn’t mean that your 11 year old needs to know every detail of the family budget, but it does mean that if we sit down and try to explain in terms they can understand why buying a costume for a once a year renaissance festival isn’t possible, then we’re setting them up to succeed by providing a foundation for financial understanding. We know there will be disappoint and probably another explanation 2 days later about the same thing when they forget the answer (or think you have) and ask again. By allowing them to be informed about finances and the general objectives your family has, over time, will help not only the family but also help them to be successful with their families / your legacies.
- Develop a sense of responsibility among your people — Esprit de corps or “a feeling of pride, fellowship, and common loyalty shared by the members of a particular group” is something held high in the United States Army (and business as well). To some, it appeared we tried to achieve that by some type of activity or “organized morale boost” that might have been put together. However, those activities often paled in comparison to the sense of pride and responsibility that came when the unit successfully accomplished something through proper delegation, encouragement, and allowing the members to seek and develop responsibility for their part of the mission.Many times, as dad, I try to “be the man of the house” and take care of certain things without sitting back and considering what type of learning could come if I allowed others to be part of the process for those tasks. It’s quite often because I’m reacting to a situation instead of being proactive about it. When we allow our families to work together as a unit towards a common goal, while it can be frustrating to us in the short term because maybe we can get it done faster by ourselves without the “extra help”, it helps them develop a sense of purpose and achievement over time better preparing them for their futures. Give it a try and you’ll find the ways they come up with for completing different tasks could leave you in awe.
“Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader. – General George S. Patton”
- Make sound and timely decisions — It is important for leaders in the Army to consider situations rapidly and make decisions based on those circumstances. Sometimes, they can look at all the options, seek guidance and wisdom from others, and then make the decision. Other times, it can be a matter of life and death and a quick decision must be made knowing that some decision was better than no decision. I recently heard the story of a young tank commander, on a training exercise, who had been part of a brigade level battle plan. He knew where they were going to attack – it was to be a mountain pass, when they were going to launch – at 0500, how far they would travel until they would come under attack – ~23 miles, as well as a hundred of other decisions that had to be made in order for them to hope to see success when the mission got underway. After all that was finished and they felt ready to go, they got some rest. When 0500 rolled around and the time came to launch, they started out towards their destination – he was in the lead tank. They drove the 23 miles toward the objective and when they got there, even though the map showed one mountain pass, there were two and it left the young commander in a predicament. They could stop and let his chain of command know what he’d encountered and hope they would make a decision before the enemy called for air support and artillery to rain down on them and the rest of the brigade or he could make a decision, choose one path and drive on. He did the latter, driving up to the pass on the left, only to find that he was incorrect and immediately “killed”. Was his decision a poor one? For he and his crew – yes. However, because he made a decision and died in the pass, many more in the brigade were able to continue on through the pass on the right, removing the opportunity for the enemy to adjust their plans and lessen the casualties for his unit. It all happened because he made a decision.The ability to make sound and timely decisions at home are essential as well. While it is good to include others in the process along the way, to help them learn and feel like they are providing input, it’s also good that we stay ever vigilant considering as many different situations that may come up as possible. This way if the need for immediate decisions is required, we can do so with the appropriate information and allowing our families to continue to have confidence in our decisions and decision making ability.
- Employ your work unit in accordance with its capabilities — When Army leaders assign directives and tasks to people without the proper training or experience, failure is not just possible, but more than likely – probable. However, when we work within our capabilities and limitations, we gain confidence in our ability and the ability of those around us and are much more likely to be successful.At home, we need to know what each person in our families can do as well. We need to assess their capabilities in order to help things run more smoothly. Can your 7 year old wash a load of laundry? Can the 11 year old mow the lawn? Maybe or maybe not and due to our busy-ness, we may have lost touch with those hidden talents. We may need to sit down and talk with them to find out what they can do and even what they want to do – maybe you’re lucky and your 7 year old WANTS to wash laundry (OK, stop laughing, get up and keep reading now). We may never know if we don’t look at our resources and consider all the tasks they can complete.
Have you ever used any of these successfully? Do you disagree with one or all of them? Let us know what you think and watch out next week for the conclusion of this series.