Brilliant Manoeuvre
Leaders must know when it’s time to lead from the front and when it’s time to let others take the reins.

German general Erwin Rommel was one of the most effective and respected commanders of World War II. He was renowned for leading from the front and knowing when it was time to exercise his influence and authority at the decisive point of battle. During the crossing of the Meuse River in 1940, he was at the front and realized that a window of opportunity had opened. Without dithering, he took command of two additional regiments from neighbouring divisions (he was commanding the 7th Panzer Division) in order to secure the river crossing and press the advantage of the German forces on the western bank of the river. During his command of Afrika Korps in North Africa, he was often caught behind enemy lines because he was so far forward. He would also fly over the battlefield to reconnoitre in his Storch plane. Both of these were necessary to stay in touch with the fluid manoeuvring in the desert, but they also demonstrate the risks that must be weighed to be effective in leadership. Rommel was willing to take those calculated risks because he wanted to be at the point of decision and exercise his leadership in person. All great military commanders have demonstrated this talent throughout history. The same applies in business. You have to know when and where to exercise your leadership. Leading from the front is needed to set the example, the tone, and the pace of an operation or project. On the other hand, once things are fully underway in the right manner, it is time to pass the baton to a trusted subordinate to continue with the project so the leader can focus his or her efforts on another strategic initiative.

A leader must be an example of professional competence, good conduct, and probity to earn the full respect, loyalty, and confidence of the people under his or her responsibility.

By the way…
My ideas are featured in today’s Globe and Mail: A military approach to business.

Richard Martin 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 are permitted with proper attribution.

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