“Only he deserves power who everyday justifies it.”
Dag Hammarskjold 1965
“I don’t need you when the sun is shining; I need you when the storm clouds roll in.”
Ed Sharkey, UPS Lifer
Seek Responsibility, Take Responsibility for Your Actions
If there is a leadership principle that exemplifies the need to “hit the ground running” day in and day out it is the principle of taking initiative and owning it.
Leaders do not wait for things to happen. You know your mission, you know your job, and you know your team, so what is there to keep you from getting it done?
Institutional lethargy can hold back the most competitive leader if that person allows it to occur. Most often peer pressure to “keep a steady pace” is a euphemism for “slow down.” Do not fall victim to the tedium of repetition.
Something needs improvement. Someone needs counseling or training. Somewhere a problem is untended and left for decay.
Veterans are prized because they have been trained to seize opportunities. Veterans work with virtually no supervision. The transition element most challenging for vets is finding a job demanding enough. Even the simplest and most routine of assignments, though, can be made more efficient or profitable. Do it.
If there is failure, rely on the process and the facts to find how the failure occurred. Blaming an individual is easy, but if you are tasked with supervising the project, a failure by anyone on the team can be, and should be, yours to shoulder.
In the absence of something immediate, pick up a book and develop yourself. It sets a good example. If a subordinate takes legitimate initiative and falls short, avoid the impulse to chastise him or her. Praise the effort, and be constructive about where to prevent a recurrent mistake.
Especially, do not dress down a subordinate in a group setting, unless the wrong doing is egregious and requires immediate correction. If you strip an employee of his or her dignity in public, that person will be almost useless for an indeterminate period.
Any enterprise in the absence of direction that serves to move the mission forward should be embraced. When we fault initiative in a knee-jerk fashion, it will become a rare event.
One caution: seek responsibility, but do not over-commit in order to endear yourself to others. Everyone should be able to rely on your good word. If you cannot get the job done by the commitment, keep your customer or boss in the loop. No one likes surprises, especially bad ones.