From time to time, I would like to share some thoughts on Leadership. I have several reasons for this, among the top, being that Customers need and deserve Leadership. The direction is set from the Leaders of a company will dictate everything that occurs within, and to, that company.
With that in mind, I just read a really interesting book on the Iraq War and thought to share a few of the Leadership points that I took away from it. The book is called, “Warrior King: The Triumph and Betrayal of an American Commander in Iraq” and is written by West Point graduate and retired U. S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Sassaman. The book details his military experience in Iraq, where he commanded the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment from 2003 to 2004.
First off, I want to make clear that, as a U.S. Army veteran, I am heavily biased towards our military. I come from a long line of military families (think Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump) and have a History Degree. This combination makes it hard for me to pass up a certain sections of the bookstore and library.
With that disclosure out of the way, let’s get down to business!
While this book was a fascinating insight into the one United States military unit’s time in Iraq, the intriguing part to me was the differences in Leadership that were illustrated in this book. Lt. Colonel Sassaman gave no quarter in shining a light on not only his Leadership style, but also those of his subordinates and his superiors. For anyone who has not closely followed the Global War on Terror, Sassaman is most widely known for his “cover up” of two Iraqi men who were supposedly drowned in the Tigris River by several of Sassaman’s men.
Without going too deep into that specific part of the book at this time, we can safely observe (from our couches and air conditioned houses far from any battlefield) that styles of Leadership are as varied as people’s personalities. I would like to step away from the book for just a minute and couch the observations I made in a business related manner.
One style of leadership is ‘hands-on’. This type of Leadership is exhibited by the Leader “getting their hands dirty”. They visit the front lines of their business, they work with those who are at the Customer-facing touch points of their business and they take accountability for everything that happens. In other words, the buck stops with them!
Another kind of leadership is a more ‘hands-off” style. This can be exhibited by those who rarely know what is occurring at the Customer touch points, due to their being far removed from any interaction with those who generate revenue for their company. Sometimes, but not always, fault will be found when something goes wrong.
Fault versus accountability. Working with the front lines of the business versus leading from afar. I have worked in both kinds of businesses and for both types of Leaders. Perhaps you have as well. Maybe, you are even one of these two types of Leaders. Which one do you prefer? Which ones give greater direction to your business?
Bringing our review back around to the book, I found that Sassaman’s Leadership style was of the first kind – ‘hands-on’, working with his soldiers, taking accountability and truly Leading from the front. I can’t pretend to know what really occured in Iraq, and specifically what occurred at that bridge over the Tigris river, but I can learn from the styles of Leadership, both before and after the incident, and I would encourage others to read this book and see what you take away from it.
Thanks for reading and let me know if you would like to see more Leadership articles here,