Do you get frustrated when someone throws roadblocks in the way of progress? I certainly do. I get really, really angry when someone on the staff derails progress, focusing on why a plan will fail instead of figuring out how to make it succeed. There is always someone who starts with no, focusing on every regulation, doctrinal imperative, and potential friction point to prevent action. But what’s the true source of this frustration? Is it truly about the organization, or does it become personal when someone challenges your work? Effective leaders realize that it isn’t about being right or wrong. Intelligent organizational leaders use diverse and divergent thinking to make projects stronger rather than letting their ego get in the way. Here are three quick thoughts on using divergent thinking to the team’s advantage – the change starts with you.
A Soldier in Basic Combat Training with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, at Fort Jackson, S.C., exits the Skyscraper obstacle by falling several feet onto a mat at the confidence course, June 22.
Empathy: In the context of conflict, empathy is your ability to appreciate someone else’s perspective. Rather than writing someone off as an obstacle, have the patience to think through their concerns without bias. A good perspective is that analyzing these arguments only strengthens your initiative.
Humility: I am a flawed leader – I often take conflict or disagreement personally. In the context of professional disagreement, humility reminds me that my initiatives and approach are always flawed. Facets of my plan will always be flawed, and divergent perspectives can be credible.
Compromise: Once a leader has considered divergent perspectives and applied critical analysis to their approach, they can pursue stronger initiatives and plans. Good leaders compromise, understanding that being right is less important than collaborative inclusion.
Organizational leadership is not about being right. Organizational leadership is about maximizing the diversity of a team through collaborative inclusion.
Check out more thoughts on improving your organizational leadership here
“Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization” (ADRP 6-22, 1 August 2012, p. 1-1). As Army leaders, we are well versed in leading to accomplish the mission. We begin our careers at the direct leadership level, having daily face-to-face contact with those in our charge, and getting the job done. As organizational leaders, we must place more focus on the second aim of leadership – to improve the organization. However, we still have direct leadership responsibility in our staff sections.
Sentinel Spc. Preston Millison, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), conducts his last walk at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 6, 2016. Millison is badge holder number 633 and has served at the Tomb since June 2014. (Photo by Sgt. Cody W. Torkelson)
As leaders, time is usually our most valuable resource (as previously discussed here). Since time is often scarce, it may appear wasteful to invest in communication that appears inefficient. Stated more directly, why waste time interacting with a subordinate who can’t get to the point or doesn’t have one? Before shutting down a conversation to save time, think about some of the other factors at play. First, think about what the other person is trying to achieve. Even if it is just small talk, they are usually attempting is to establish a relationship. If they are complaining, they consider you a trusted agent or someone who can influence change. A few seconds of thought are helpful in identifying their purpose. Next, think about your leadership role broader than the context of your daily tasks. As a leader, you probably internalize the responsibility of professional development. A person-to-person interaction in the headquarters is likely more valuable than a formal, group leader development session. In this context, investing time in junior leaders may be the most important thing you do all day. Finally, think about the example you are setting as a professional. If you are the leader who never has time to listen, junior leaders will likely model your behavior. Just like in small units, good leaders have time for their people. Time is scarce, and likely your most valuable commodity. Take a few moments to reflect on how to most effectively use your time today. Is your inbox more important than interacting with your people?
To be successful in multi-national operations, the US military must create an environment where coalition staff officers can provide meaningful contributions to the team. The differences that exist between nationalities are magnified in the pressure cooker that is a coalition headquarters. Acceptance in this environment is a difficult path to navigate for a coalition officer, and an easy one to misjudge. This entry offers three recommendations that will allow coalition officers to integrate effectively into a US-led HQ during the initial few months of their tour. It falls to the Field Grade leaders in an organization to drive this integration and build the effectiveness of the staff. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather observations formed from personal experience.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Reinier, 82nd Airborne Division