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Leadership Seminar Day 2

Below are trees at FSI.  They are all sweet gums, all about the same age growing in almost the same spot, yet for some it is fall color time and for others it is still summer.

Sweet gum trees at FSI in Arlington, VA 

Today we did a simulation exercise on leadership.   It was fun and useful but not realistic.  Leaders were decided essentially by random chance and after that the game was specifically rigged to give the leaders continuing advantages in gaining points.   I was lucky enough to be one of the three leaders and although I firmly believe the redistribution is a bad idea in most cases, in this artificial game with points distributed by random chance that is what I advocated and what we did. 

I think the game was designed to show us how power and privileges can be distributed unfairly.   I understand that and I got the point, but the game made me think about the real world versus the simplified and contrived one in the game.   Luck plays a role in life’s outcomes, but so do things like hard work, expertise and smart decisions.  In the case of leadership we could also add judgment, integrity and vision. Leadership opportunities and skills are NOT randomly distributed in real life.   I think that is the real point about learning re leadership.    Otherwise there wouldn’t be much use to study it or try to develop it.    That certainly doesn’t mean that the same people should be in charge always and in every situation, but it should not be a random event.

"Asking 'Who ought to be the boss' is like asking 'Who ought to be the tenor in the quartet', obviously, the man who can sing tenor."  So said Henry Ford and he was right.  Sometimes the situation determines who should do what.   Games cannot really catch all that goes into a decision like that, which is probably why most people who can consistently win at Monopoly aren’t rich developers in real life and why you wouldn’t want your appendix removed by somebody who plays a doctor on TV.    We all know that.  The problem comes when people have a simplified game-like interpretation of things in real life w/o thinking about it.  I think that is one big reason why socialism and its relatives still maintain their hold on minds of the credulous. 

Another interesting take away for me was different attitudes toward leadership.  One of my colleagues in the “leadership council” essentially wanted to abdicate the position and just let the group decide by consensus.   Her rationale was that we got the jobs essentially by random chance and so did not deserve it.  While she was right, I really disagree with her reaction.   I know it was just a game, but in this game and I think in a real situation the leader has the responsibility to lead.   Maybe you should lead to the group to another leader, but just letting the group drift is not an option, IMO.   It is a problem with leadership in government that we too often do just that.   I admired the Marines for their attitude, which is a different.  If a Marine finds himself in a leadership role, he takes it and does his best.   They have it right.   Leadership is a duty, not a privilege or perk.   If it falls to you, you have to do the best you can until there is an alternative.   Capitulation is cowardly. 

Anyway, the day was useful and the game was useful because it stimulated a lot of thought and discussion.  For we read an article re emotional intelligence of groups.   It was a disappointment.   I read the book “Emotional Intelligence” many years ago.   It is an interesting concept, but it can easily be taken too far and applied to precisely.   I think the useful aspects of article we read could have been summed up in a couple of paragraphs.   It was a waste with all the pages.

Below - the same fall-summer thing goes for this maple branch.  

Red maple tree partly in fall colors

Below - they are building a new apartment near my house.  This thing takes wet concrete in the bottom and can distribute it way into the construction site.   I am interested in this as part of my general theme re how much industry has changed and replaced people with machines.   This thing does the job of dozens of workers.  Jobs have not gone overseas; they are just gone.  Industry will eventually be like agriculture, with few workers producing the products for everybody else.

Cement used in construction

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It is no real wonder as to why you got along so well with the Marines in your AO.

You share much of the same philosophy regarding leadership and duty.

The foundation principals and practices of USMC leadership philosophy was built during a time when the Marines were operating in small detachments aboard ships and at stations all over the world. In those years, there was no real time communications with higher levels of command so local unit detachment leaders had to lead.

The philosophy received more tuning and refinement during the century or so that the USMC acted as the US colonial light infantry. Again, small units in far away places in varying degree of continual hostile engagement and no timely recourse to higher level command to aid in decision making for the local leader.

FSOs worked under much the same constraints during those times as well.

The invention of long range radio communications did much to improve the situation in that small detachment leaders, as well as Dpt State officers, could get support and/or advice during crisis events. But it also has lead to too much top down micromanaging by senior leadership that has no real feel for the situation on the ground.

The Marines have been working on a new (revamp of an older, pre micromanage) strategic concept called Distributed Operations.

The cornerstone for this concept is in the focus on small unit leaders and filtering out those that require constant management from above and then training them up to be reliable and competent in independent detachment leadership roles.

The US is at war and will be at war for the foreseeable future. It may serve the Dept of State and the FSOs serving within your organization to consider working up a leadership model that recognizes that.

This is also a war that has the potential to reach out and touch anyone anywhere at any time. The philosophical/doctrine wheels have been invented and heavily road tested. Taking those wheels and tailoring them to your particular organization vehicle might be something worth looking into.
From John Matel - Thanks.

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