I’m continuing the list of leadership principles that I will be discussing in one of the chapters of my forthcoming book,Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles.

In this principle, it’s obvious that one needs to substitute the word subordinates or followers for ‘soldiers.’ The point though, is that too many managers and executives in responsible positions simply don’t know who they are leading. They make people decisions without knowing the most basic facts about their subordinates’ strengths and limitations, their goals and aspirations, their personal and professional circumstances. Instead, they just assume that everyone is a replaceable cog in the machine.

The best and easiest way to get to know your people is to talk to them. Ask them what they are working on and why they are working on it. Not in an investigative manner, but as a simple conversation. Ask them where they are from, what their goals are, what their understanding of the company’s goals are and how they fit into that scheme. It’s amazing what will happen when you simply ask people to talk about themselves.

It is also critical to promote the welfare of your subordinates. This doesn’t necessarily mean giving them everything they want. Sometimes tough love is needed to get a person on the right track, to provide the learning and development they require by getting them outside their comfort zone and pushing them to perform at a higher level. To do this, you need to know what makes them tick, what they need to improve, and how to best employ them to their best potential. The German World War II general Erwin Rommel said that the best form of welfare for his troops was first class training. By this, he meant that they had to be developed to their utmost capabilities, both as individuals and as teams. This is what would ensure their success and their survival in battle.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

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