From Command and Control to Shared Purpose

I’ve always had the impression that in some ways things are easier for a leader in the armed forces. My impression has been that the strong command and control culture that comes from shared oaths and hierarchy enables the armed forces to make and execute decisions in a way that most civilian organisations can only dream of.

Abbeystead BluebellsThis impression was blown away this morning by Stanley McCrystal’s talk to TED.

In it he talks about many of the challenges that I see in the commercial organisations that I work with, but on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

He talks about the challenge of physically dispersed teams and having to communicate view electronic means without the ability to ‘put your hand one someone’s shoulder’.

He talks about the generational differences and the inversion of expertise with junior members of the team having more knowledge than the senior members.

He talks about the need to build relationships across cultural and physical boundaries.

He talks about the need to build a shared purpose.

He then concludes with these words:

A leader isn’t good because they are right. They’re good because they’re willing to learn and to trust

That’s a powerful message to those of us who are in leadership positions who are tempted to tell people to ‘just get on with it’.

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