Byron's Babbles

Seeing With Style

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 3, 2022

I continue to be inspired by the late General Ulysses S. Grant while reading his autobiography, Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant. Reading this book has prompted much note taking, studying, and reflecting. Earlier in the week I wrote down comments from General Grant about the first Generals he ever served under. Speaking of Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, he discussed how the pair had two totally different leadership styles, but were were two of the greatest leaders he had served under. He also discussed there could not of been two better leaders to learn from. General Taylor saw everything through his own eyes and General Scott saw through the eyes of his staff. The key here is that they saw. Also, that they had a style.

The best leaders see things with a clarity that brings life and the work being done into focus. Those same leaders use both eye sight and insight to influence the world and the people in it. A leader’s window into the world is their sight and insight. Both are developed through time and experience. Leaders who see things differently realize that it is possible to change the world. Great leaders see things from their own perspective, like General Taylor preferring to be in the field daily right along side of the troops. Great leaders also see the incredible value in the different vantage points of others, like General Scott used. But make no mistake, both were developing a total picture of their operating environment by seeing to it that everyone has an opportunity to participate according to their skills and abilities.

Now let’s talk style. Leadership style refers to the actions leaders take to gather input from subordinates, make decisions, solve problems and review results. In the leadership development work I do, I spend a lot of time talking about style. We all have style! That style comes from what we have observed, experienced, and emulate. And as General Grant affirmed, two different styles can be effective. Our style is an emulsification (my metaphor here) of our values, beliefs, observations, and experiences. General Grant earned respect through his leadership, and his willingness to walk among his soldiers, talk with them and listen.

Speaking of style; it isn’t the uniform that makes the general or the clothes that make the leader. When General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, General Lee dawned new uniform with a shining sword and polished boots while Grant famously showed up in well-worn uniform, tattered gloves and muddy boots. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the leader whose style is based entirely on character, values and formidable skills over vanity any day.

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