Have you ever reported to a manager who was extremely proficient at process and organization but you would not judge them a good leader? This is not a slight to capable managers. Every office requires sound business management, structure and discipline, but true collective success can’t happen without a competent leader who understands how to motivate everyone to get behind aggressive goals, realizing budgetary expectations and collective achievement, especially in the fundraising profession.
Leading staff and volunteers is not necessarily an acquired skill, although a person with reasonably good “people skills” can become an effective leader. We are all creatures of our own upbringing and experiences and many of the most important leadership skills are inherent to one’s personality and temperament. And then again, successful leaders, as Shakespeare so aptly put it, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have it thrust upon them.”
Back in 2001 the Mini-Series, Band of Brothers was released, co-produced by Steve Spielberg and Tom Hanks. The series was based upon Stephen Ambrose’s book of the same name.
The true story traces the actions of Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the famous 101st Airborne Division during WW II. Easy Company was led by legendary Lieutenant Dick Winters. He, I would venture to guess would have agreed that his war-time achievements were not sought by him but were “thrust upon him.” Starting with basic training, his job was to organize and lead a disparate group of draftees and volunteers from many states and cultures, many with modest or limited education, a number were first generation Americans. Most had never ventured more than a modest distance from their hometowns. The average age was 19.
In the series, Winters (played by the British actor, Damien Lewis) reports to Captain Herbert Sobel (played by David Schwimmer) a college educated and private military school graduate. Sobel torments his charges relentlessly at training base Camp Taccoa, Georgia. He is demonstrably an effective manager, and all recognize they are well prepared for the impending combat they will face, but none believe him a leader. His alienation of the troops is so severe they collectively rebel demanding he not join them as they depart to England in preparation for the invasion of Normandy.
Winters is seen as the leader the men crave and while some become wartime casualties and a number will die, they develop enormous respect for him and serve under his tutelage for the remainder of the war. After the war, writing his autobiography as a retired Major, Winters gives Sobel his due, saying the men were extremely well trained and most likely many survived the war because of his hard discipline in spite of his harsh manner. He, nonetheless, for a host of reasons was unsuited to lead a combat regiment. This is perhaps an extreme example of management and leadership not in alignment, for certainly the best case scenario for a smooth operation is strong leadership and competent managers working in concert and while work stresses can be challenging, we’re not working in an extreme environment like warfare on a grand scale. Thank goodness! Having a skilled leader, who also happens to be a great manager is, of course, optimum!
In Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Dick Winters he assembles a list of Ten Principles for Success, which I think are guideposts for anyone who finds themselves selecting, is chosen or is thrust into a position of leadership:
- Strive to be a leader of character, competence and courage.
- Lead from the front. Say, “Follow me!” and then lead the way.
- Stay in top physical shape – physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.
- Develop your team. If you know your people, are fair in setting realistic goals and expectations, and lead by example, you will develop teamwork.
- Delegate responsibility to your subordinates and let them do their jobs. You can’t do a good job if you don’t have a chance to use your imagination or your creativity.
- Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind.
- Remain humble. Don’t worry about who receives the credit. Never let power or authority go to your head.
- Take a moment of self-reflection. Look at yourself in the mirror every night and ask yourself if you did your best.
- True satisfaction comes from getting the job done. The key to a successful leader is to earn respect – not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.
- Hang tough! – Never, ever, give up.