Byron's Babbles

The Leader’s Toolbox

IMG_3251Indiana weather has been absolutely beautiful this weekend. The temperature has been in the 60s and it has been sunny. Perfect weather to get out and get a start on some spring farm jobs that need to be done; even if it is still February. My son, Heath, and I did some high tensile fence repair and maintenance today. As we worked I thought about a blog post I did a few years ago entitled “Mending Fences.” You can read it here, but it dealt with how the maintenance done to keep a high tensile fence in proper repair is like being a leader.

IMG_3252Today as we were working, Heath made the comment that there were tools specifically made for the fence repair pieces we were using. Specifically, he was talking about the fence pliers/crimps used to splice a broken wire together using sleeves specially formed and gritted to hold the two wires together. As we talked I thought about the imagery of the tools is the toolbox to the tools we have available as leaders.This same metaphor of the leadership toolbox is being used in a book I am reading right now.

I am reading a great book by Robert Gates. The book is A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public ServiceThe book just came out in January 2016 and it is amazing. Just as great as one of Gates’s other books, DutyI would recommend reading both of them. Gates served as secretary of defense under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. He was also an officer in the United States Air Force and worked for the CIA before being appointed director of the agency. A member of the National Security Council staff in four administrations, he served eight presidents of both political parties. He was president of Texas A&M University from 2002 to 2006, is currently chancellor of the College of William & Mary, was named president of the Boy Scouts of America in 2013, and has served on several corporate boards of directors.

IMG_3254In A Passion for Leadership, Gates discusses how to be a successful leader of change and reform we must empower those we lead. One tool for empowerment is the task force. Task forces provide a way to get people out of their ordinary bureaucratic routine and get them in an environment where they are sharing ideas with people from different parts of an organization and people often in those kinds of settings can come up with great ideas and new approaches. Sometimes I get criticized for being to collaborative and wanting to involve as many stakeholders as possible in coming up with the best solutions possible, but Gates seems to share this same believe with me. At the end of the day there are many decisions where the leader must make the final call, but why not have as many options and ideas on the table as possible. At the end of the day those we lead need to know we will make decisions and we’re not afraid to make tough decisions. But, to make those decisions we need to be knowledgeable as possible in order to make intelligent decisions. The only way to have that knowledge is to do personal study as well as listen to those around us. Finally, we as the leader, drive the change, reform, or turnaround agendas of our organizations. Great leaders decide what are the issues that she is going to expend time and political capital on.

It has also been exciting to read about Gates’s view on the tool of creating a vision. As you indexknow we have been going through this very process with the school I lead presently. According to Gates, the vision doesn’t spring suddenly or fully developed from the leader’s brain. The person should listen, according to Gates, to a broad range of internal and external stakeholders, especially people who want to be part of a winning team. Leaders should integrate that information with instincts, experience and judgment to increase the likelihood that the vision will be grounded in reality, achievable and inspiring.

Again, it has been exciting to read about all the leadership tools Robert Gates has used during his successful career to change and reform the organizations he has lead, including our nation.

What leadership tools do you need to develop in your leadership toolbox?

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