One of the most important leadership traits I learned in the military was the courage to seek council.
Seeking council is essential for effective leadership. This has only been reinforced for me since I began working as a consultant and coach seven years ago. It is the attitude of knowing that you may not have all of the answers and that you need the help of others to achieve your mission and objectives. It is also the standpoint of someone who accepts that they don’t have all the information to make a perfect decision, and that they must act despite uncertainty and high levels of risk.
To be an effective leader, you have to involve your entire team in the process of creating and implementing decisions and plans. It is impossible for one person to know everything and to have all the required skill sets. This is why the military surrounds young officers with a cadre of non-commissioned officers who can advise them and provide the counterbalance of experience to the exuberance of youth and intellect. Even more experienced officers recognize that it is essential to gain the opinions of subordinates and key advisors before making important decisions.
All leaders must make decisions with imperfect knowledge, uncertainty, and risk. With a willingness to accept that they don’t have all the answers, and the courage to ask for advice and help, leaders can make a difference and perform better under all conditions as the conductor of a team rather than a one-man band.
Richard Martin is founder and president of Alcera Consulting Inc. He is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.
© 2013 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.