Rules for Living

Rather than explaining to the public early why he had to resign as CIA Director, General David Petraeus, once President Obama’s “czar of drone warfare  in Afghanistan” and in fact becoming later the “King of Drones”, had entertained just one day before Election Day his lessons on leadership. Guess who had interviewed him? Well, his biographer Paula Broadwell, who has been under FBI investigations for getting access to Petraeus’ private email account and is said to be the main reason for his sudden resignation, though he was already under fire after the Benghazi Consulate disaster on September 11.

So, Broadwell lists twelve well-known rules for leaders.

“1. Lead by example from the front of the formation. Take your performance personally—if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops.

2. A leader must provide a vision—clear and achievable ‘big ideas’ combined in a strategic concept—and communicate those ideas throughout the entire organization and to all other stakeholders.

3. A leader needs to give energy; don’t be an oxygen thief.

4. There is an exception to every rule, standard operating procedure, and policy; it is up to leaders to determine when exceptions should be made and to explain why they made them.

5. We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rear-view mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again.

6. Be humble. The people you’ll be leading already have on-the-ground conflict experience. ‘Listen and learn.’

7. Be a team player. ‘Your team’s triumphs and failures will, obviously, be yours.’ Take ownership of both.

8. Don’t rely on rank. If you rely on rank, rather than on the persuasiveness of your logic, the problem could be you and either your thinking or your communication skills. Likewise, sometimes the best ideas come from bottom-up information sharing (i.e., ‘Need to share’ not ‘Need to know’). Use ‘directed telescopes’ to improve situational awareness.

9. Leaders should be thoughtful but decisive. Listen to subordinates’ input, evaluate courses of action and second- and third-order effects, but be OK with an ’80 per­cent solution.’ ‘There will be many moments when all eyes turn to you for a decision. Be prepared for them. Don’t shrink from them. Embrace them.’ Some­times the best move is the bold move.

10. Stay fit to fight. Your body is your ultimate weapons system. Physical fitness for your body is essential for mental fitness.

11. The only thing better than a little competition is a lot of competition. Set challenges for your subordinates to encourage them to excel.

12. Everyone on the team is mission critical. Instill in your team members a sense of great self-worth—that each, at any given time, can be the most important on the battlefield.”

Well, love is a battlefield, too. See General Petraeus’ resignation letter here.

10 November 2012 @ 08:42 am.

Last modified November 10, 2012.

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