Saturday, 25 June 2011

A response to Colin Millar (rantingscot) and his blog on the 'leadager' hybrid

Colin Millar, a fellow CMI ambassador and a blogger of many interesting pices such as this one ( which seemed worthy of a response, following..

I spent the other evening with Rear Admiral Chris Parry (and many other equally tall, imposing and impressive ex-military commanders…. I felt short, ugly, unfit and inadequate for much of the evening, though I'm over it now) looking at geo-political strategy- I have the migraine to prove it – and he was fairly scathing on the subject that much of what passes for ‘strategy’ or ‘strategic leadership’ among current organisational management is really tactics and stewardship, and that many so-called strategies are really initiatives or programmes. I concur with many of Colin's comments about the changing needs of employees....Especially the comments on the need for an almost spiritual engagement between colleagues.
It was interesting at this recent meeting to observe the huge difference between a typical business leader audience and that group of commanders – all highly intelligent, charismatic and eloquent and with the habit of leadership (as opposed to status) ingrained in their body language, attitudes, words and behaviour. Markedly different from the highly-variable calibre of a business audience. Don't get me wrong, certainly there are some very talented, capable and powerful leaders in business. Maybe 1 in 20 though? An optimistic or pessimistic assessment? You decide.

 I was struck that, in military command structures, we identify the best-of-the-best early, groom them with very considerable coaching, training, experiential learning, mentoring and opportunities for personal and professional growth – and where to reach senior leadership requires outstanding ability. Here Robert Greenleaf’s ‘servant leadership’ is the norm – see for an illustration. Crucially, and this my real point and response to Colin's piece (it had to come eventually) – military commanders have always been ‘leadagers’ – having to manage the minutiae of resources and process while providing ultimate inspiration and leadership in life-and-death situations. I suspect too few of these lessons are being observed and adopted in business and in business-leader development. I plan to begin doing something about that.

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