“IF YOU SPEAK ONE MORE TIME, I’LL CUT OFF YOUR ARM”


Our guest blogger today is Jim Dew. Jim has been in the industry for over 10 years as a senior consultant, after serving for 28 years in the USAF. He served as a Group Commander twice, Joint Task Force Commander three times, and as a Squadron Commander twice. Jim was assigned or deployed overseas for almost 20 years, including four years in the Middle East and one year in West Africa.

While assigned to a post-civil war West African country as the U.S. Senior Advisor to their President and Minister of Defense, I was present at a meeting one day and overheard the Minister say to a senior staff member, “If you speak one more time, I’ll cut off your arm!”. Clearly, that was not an acceptable nor effective form of leadership, it was an example of fear installed leadership.

Some of you in your careers may have encountered examples of poor and ineffective forms of leadership, and sad to say most of us have. Poor leadership frequently inhibits initiative, morale, and often negatively impacts the accomplishment of an organization’s mission. Unfortunately, life-threatening examples of poor leadership were fairly common then in this West Africa nation.

Fortunately, many of us in our careers have had the good fortune of working with some of the best leaders that our nation has to offer. These standout leaders are great mentors, exercise effective leadership, and are examples to follow. I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with several of these leaders, and decades later their styles of leadership are still applicable-whether in industry or in the military. Some of the effective leadership traits I’ve tried to emulate include:

• Be positive with subordinates even under difficult circumstances

• Under all circumstances remain calm

• Treat subordinates with respect

• Avoid speaking negatively about others

• When you say that you are going to do something, do it

• Effective leadership is a lifestyle, not a job

• Ensure every subordinate knows that they are an important person on the team

• Effective bi-directional communications

Lightning struck twice for me during my military career since I had the pleasure of working with one particular outstanding leader more than once. We worked together on post-9/11 combat operations, and a few years later in different roles dealing with a challenging organizational situation in an international environment. His leadership and guidance working with me through all of these difficult times established a positive standard of leadership for myself and others to follow. Observing his leadership style provided me with the tools to succeed in my remaining years in the military and subsequent years in the industry.

Ineffective and poor leadership may be able to get some things done in the short term, but eventually, the overwhelming negative aspect of a toxic leadership style may very well cause an organization to fail. Effective leadership, on the other hand, will ultimately be enduring and is highly desired, you just have to know where to find it.

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