Today we have a guest post from Brigadier General (ret) Thomas A. Kolditz. Kolditz is the founding member of Saxon Castle LLC, a leader development consultancy. He is a Professor in the Practice of Leadership and Management and directs the Leader Development Program at the Yale School of Management. A highly experienced leader, Brigadier General (retired) Kolditz has more than 26 years in command and supervisory positions, serving on four continents in his 34 years of military service. His most recent book, titled In Extremis Leadership: Leading as if Your Life Depended on It, was based on more than 100 interviews taken on the ground in Iraq during combat operations. He holds a BA from Vanderbilt University, three master’s degrees, and a PhD in social psychology.
In the early 1980s, I was a lieutenant in the United States Army, responsible for coordinating artillery support for a myriad of observers. I was excited that my unit was fielding a digital system to manage the requests for support, but was surprised that my sergeant was less than enthusiastic.
He told me, “Sir, you can set all the priorities exactly according to our plan, but in combat, I’ve allocated missions based on the amount of fear I heard in the voice of the observer on the radio, or the amount of gunfire in the background. Without those nuances, I would have never gotten the prioritization right, and a lot more of our men would have died.”
It was my first introduction to the challenge and complexity of communication in what would become the information age.
All leaders have to be savvy end users of technology and design smart protocols that account for the human dimension of communication and interpersonal influence – the core of leading in a complex, sometimes ambiguous world. There are three fundamental approaches that leaders must consider, in turn, in order to maximize virtual presence and influence.
- Be Specific about What You Need to Know as a Leader
In leadership roles, it’s important to be clear and practical about what you need to know, and when you need to know it. Consider pulling together a list of critical information requirements and specify what information you need immediately, 24/7, and what information can wait for the next business day.
- Communicate in Core Ideas Rather Than Specifics
In balancing specificity, it is highly effective to provide people with core ideas with the specifics stripped away. Why? Because it empowers people to respond in ambiguous, volatile conditions. An effective core idea pronouncement is a statement of intent. Intent statements differ from vision statements because they guide behavior in more practical ways. They generally consist of four parts: purpose, methods, end state and risk.
- Impact the Decisive Point
When the organization is attuned to both specifics and broader intent, what’s left for the leader is to have direct impact at the precisely the right time and place – in person or virtually. At any given time, there is one point in the organization where performance is critical for success. That is where an effective leader exerts direct influence.
Let’s face it – for leaders at all levels, there are myriad requirements, responsibilities, and distractions. No leader can give equal emphasis to every potential demand. Thus one of the more important leadership skills is to be able to articulate the decisive point at any given time, and use technology or other means to exert direct influence.
Provide your critical information requirements, articulate core ideas through intent, and directly impact the decisive point. Whether virtually or physically present, these three leader tune-ups can change your influence – and your organization’s performance.
Interested in more examples and details?
- Attend the General’s webinar on July 3rd, 2012 “Revolutionize Your Leadership”
- Download the complete white paper, “Three Fundamental Approaches to Influencing and Building a Revolutionary Team”