Retired General and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, presented at the AlienVault Sales Kick Off (SKO) today. If anyone expected bone-crushing, aggressive militaristic leadership advice from the General, they didn’t get it. General Pace focused on the value of being a caring organization, where leadership gives subordinates direction, and subordinates are empowered to make decisions on the fly to get to the desired outcome. Often, in battle as well as in the office, your superior may not be available to guide you on every single decision nor do they want to.
For this model to work, subordinates must not be afraid to make mistakes. The General not only encouraged leadership to accept mistakes, but even said, “if you’re not making some mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.” He told a story about an exec who had made a decision that cost his company $10M. There was thought of firing him, but the CEO decided not to: “Why would I fire somebody I just spent $10M to educate?”
Courage is also a key feature of leadership, in the office as well as on the battlefield. As General Pace pointed out: “People who work for me don’t need to tell me I’m brilliant, I can tell myself that in the mirror when I’m shaving. What I’m looking for is information from the folks who know the most details to help me make decisions.” He suggested taking ideas forward to leadership in the form of a question: here is the problem, here is how I would solve it if I were you, what would you like me to do?
Using this caring organization model, people at all levels are empowered and feel welcome to challenge leadership and voice thoughts on topics that are “not in their lane.” He also advised “You don’t have to be right all the time, but you have to be thinking” to provide value to the organization. The way to foster this caring and risk-taking type of model starts from the top, where taking care of people in your charge is important. He suggested taking 5 minutes every now and then to just chat with employees to get to know them.
- When you pick a place to work, if you don’t admire the leadership and culture, don’t go. You won’t be able to change the culture – it will change you.
- Look at leaders you like, and try emulating their practices. If they work for you, keep them. If not, throw them away. Not everyone has the same style, and that’s OK.
- It’s a mistake for leaders to become self-absorbed. Don’t start believing your own press releases and think you are the reason for your team’s success..
- Believe it or not, Star Trek can provide lots of good insights on leadership. General Pace uses Star Trek examples in the college classes he teaches to evaluate and drive home what makes a good leader and a successful organization.