Posts Tagged ‘Ethics’

Brilliant Manoeuvre
Build your leadership on the basis of competence and results, not just style and likeability.

A common misunderstanding about leadership is that it absolutely requires charisma and personal “style.” These elements won’t harm leadership, but they don’t create it. There is also a popular misconception that good leaders are necessarily liked and popular.

The essence of leadership is competence, the ability to get things done efficiently and effectively, which in turn leads to the respect of superiors, followers, and peers. Likeability and popularity are merely side benefits, and not necessarily that important. There is a substantive technique to leadership. It involves such mundane matters as the ability to plan, decide, direct, and control. This can include everything from basic time management to the development of detailed resource requirements and task assignments. It also requires communication, steadfastness in the face of difficulty, a willingness to consult and combine the forces of people with different skills and personalities. Style and charisma are the decoration and friezes on the structure, but the bricks and mortar are teachable skills and techniques.

Food for Thought
People will follow those who have a claim to leadership, but only if they obtain consistent results. Nobody wants to follow a loser, or someone who meanders aimlessly without purpose or ability.

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.

Brilliant Manoeuvre
Lead by example, especially in matters of ethics.

When I was a staff officer in the headquarters of the Canadian Land Force Doctrine and Training System, our commander had assembled the entire staff to talk about leadership. He asked the assembly what the most important principle of leadership is. In unison, and without hesitation, everyone answered, “Lead by example.” This wasn’t the result of indoctrination, but of hard won experience, as we were all experienced officers and NCOs.

Thoughout my career, I always tried to apply this most basic of leadership principles, although I sometimes faltered. When I did, it was usually a matter of ethics. I don’t mean to say I was willfully acting unethically, but rather that many errors of commission and omission can be interpreted by followers and peers as ethical misconduct.

These days, we have business and political leaders, athletes, clergy, educators and others in positions of influence and authority acting unethically. Many do not appear to understand that this directly undermines their credibility and ability to lead. For instance, Anthony Weiner is running for mayor of New York City, but doesn’t see that his sexual pecadilloes can undermine his credibility, and therefore his ability to lead one of the most important cities on earth! Here in Montreal, the Charbonneau Commission is investigating allegations of bribery and bid-rigging in municipal construction projects. The standard excuse by those called to testify? Everyone was doing it. It seemed to be “the way things were done.”

Leaders set the ethical tone of the organizations they lead, and they must always be aware of this fact.

Food for Thought
Ill-considered and immoral actions in organizations undermine the morale and ethics of their members and the society they are meant to serve.

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.

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.

By Richard Martin

Note: This article has previously been published on on 21 Aug 12. Republished on with permission.

One of the keys to being an effective leader is to have the respect of superiors, subordinates and peers. Unfortunately, many new managers and supervisors – and sometimes even experienced ones – focus too much on trying to please everyone. They try to be liked, or even loved, rather than simply doing their job.

Here are the six most important techniques and principles to ensure you gain and maintain the respect of followers, superiors and peers alike.

1. If you want respect, you have to give it. This is probably the hardest one of all. Specifically, you should endeavor to show respect and loyalty to your own superiors, and refrain from gossip and any form of speech that can be construed as undermining the authority of other managers and supervisors. You must also be fair but firm when dealing with disciplinary or performance issues, and refrain from upbraiding people in public.

2. Listen to your followers. This requires you to stay open to constructive criticism, suggestions and questions. The two best ways to achieve this are to meet regularly with your staff and open the floor for questions, or to simply walk around and converse in a friendly manner with your staff, asking them questions about their work, how they understand your approach and direction, answering any questions in the process. If you can’t answer the questions immediately, then tell them you will look into it and get back to them.

3. Provide clear and consistent direction. Ensure everyone in your team knows what is expected of them as individuals and as a group. Give ‘mission’ type direction to experienced people. This is direction that is focused on the end to be achieved rather than the means to achieve it. For less-experienced personnel, there may be a need to provide more detailed guidance that includes how to achieve the objectives. Make sure everyone is aware of and understands the organization’s mission, vision and values. Provide regular updates on the situation, especially if there has been a change.

4. Focus on managing well. Management is the art and science of planning, organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling (i.e., providing feedback). There is nothing that drives people crazier or undermines respect more for the authority and competence of a manager than an inability to do the basics of management well. Work planning, scheduling, providing clear direction, ensuring orders, directives and standards are all critical management skills and form the backbone of sound leadership.

5. Provide constant and consistent feedback. A supervisor or manager should provide performance feedback to all her direct reports regularly and as needed. Regular feedback is best provided monthly or quarterly, using a short written form and face-to-face meeting. This should be supplemented by an annual performance review which is more detailed and formal, and that is integrated with the organization’s performance reporting system. Informal feedback should be given whenever performance exceeds or fails to meet expectations. It is best given verbally ‘in the heat of action’ or shortly thereafter.

6. Take care of your people. Stand up for them with higher ups in the organization if it is justified. Provide developmental opportunities and regular feedback. Ensure they have proper equipment, training and supervision to do their jobs properly. Encourage them, and stay open to questions and constructive criticism of you, your management style or the organization.

© 2012 Richard Martin. All rights reserved.

by Richard Martin

Note: This article originally appeared on 30 July 2012 on Republished on with permission.

Understanding basic leadership principles may improve your leadership abilities, but it’s not enough just to know them – they also have to be lived and perfected every day. I suggest focusing on a different principle every week. Do this repeatedly and you may well become an outstanding leader.

1. Achieve professional competence. People follow leaders who know what they are doing and who get results. Take Steve Jobs. I’m not advocating being deliberately nasty, but by all accounts, he wasn’t a very ‘nice’ leader. People at Apple put up with his quirks, because he was the best at what he did and got spectacular results.

2. Appreciate your strengths and limitations and pursue self-improvement. The ancient Greeks believed the ultimate mark of wisdom was to “Know thyself.” If you want to be good, you have to correct or compensate for your limitations. To become great, however, you have to build on your strengths.

3. Seek and accept responsibility. If you shirk responsibility, word will get out. Superiors will avoid giving you challenging missions and the best employees won’t want to be part of your team.

4. Lead by example. “Do as I say, not as I do.” This is hypocritical and creates a culture of blame and dissimulation. If you want your followers to do the right thing, to admit to their mistakes, to learn from experience, and to be honest and loyal, then you have to do the same things and not just proclaim it.

5. Make sure your followers know your meaning and intent, then lead them to the accomplishment of the mission. Contrary to mushrooms, people do not grow better in the dark. If you want your followers to show initiative, you have to provide them with as much information as possible so they can shape their plans and actions to the overarching goals of the organization. By extension, you have to be present to coach and mentor them, supervise operations, and make sure that the objective is being achieved.

6. Know your followers and promote their welfare. The best form of welfare is to know the strengths and limitations of your people, their personal and professional goals, whether they are enjoying what they are doing and whether they feel they are being employed to their full potential.

7. Develop the leadership potential of your followers. Leadership is required up and down the line to deal effectively and quickly with patients, make judgment calls, and provide timely and relevant advice to colleagues, superiors and followers. This is also how you can tell who is ready for promotion or further development.

8. Make sound and timely decisions. We’ve all heard the expression, “lead, follow or get out of the way,” but that can lead to over-reliance on hasty and intemperate decisions. Sometimes the best decision is to defer making one until more or better information is available. It’s not just about speed, but also appropriateness and timeliness.

9. Build your team’s cohesion and morale and employ everyone up to their capabilities. Morale is the willingness to do what is needed to achieve the mission. Cohesion is the degree of team performance and integration. Both depend on keeping everyone informed and employing them to their full capabilities and potential.

10. Keep your followers informed of the mission, the changing situation and the overall picture. As they say in the military, no plan survives contact with the enemy. If you want your people to perform, exercise judgment, adjust to changes and show initiative, then everyone needs to know what is happening and, as much as possible, why it’s happening.

© 2012 Richard Martin. All rights reserved.

Two olympians have been stripped of their medals in the past week. Just today we’ve learned that a Belarussian shot putter lost her gold medal due to doping. An olympic champion cyclist also lost a medal last week due to doping during the 2004 Olympics!

We can also see the same type of discoveries happening in business over the past decade, where notables from Rupert Murdoch to Conrad Black Bernie Madoff have come under scrutiny for questionable practices, in some cases ending up in jail for long periods of time.

And what about the scandal at Penn State football.

The lesson here is simple. If you partake in questionable, unethical, or illegal practices, sooner or later, someone will discover it. Why not be as ethical as possible?

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

This is the 8th installment in my series on the 10 principles of military leadership, which I started with a blog post on February 20th. Each of my blog posts since that date have covered these leadership principles, which are used by military forces to teach, develop, and evaluate leaders at all ranks. They are applicable in all walks of life and all situations, and especially in businesses and other organizations.

Decision-making is fundamental to leadership. There are two components to this principle. First, decisions must be sound. Second, they must be timely.

Sound decisions are appropriate given the level of resources and the intended effect. They are arrived at rationally, if at all possible, after considering various options and their possible direct and indirect effects. It doesn’t matter if the decisions are made hastily or intuitively, providing there are means in place to manage the inherent risks of uncertainty. Finally, decisions are sound if the majority of the followers buy into them and there is no major resistance to their implementation. The final characteristic requires that decisions be explained and understood by everyone involved in carrying them out or supporting them.

Timely decisions are ones that are taken at the right time to have the best effect. The best decision taken and implemented at the wrong time is useless. Timely decision-making requires assurance and boldness. Most of this book is about sound, timely, efficient, and effective decision-making in support of business objectives.

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

This is the 7th principle of military leadership that we are examining for its general applicability in business and organizational life.

You have to assume that everyone in your team or organization has the potential to be a leader, until they prove the contrary. This is because everyone wants a challenge in their work and career. Often, though not always, this means they want to assume greater responsibilities, and this can require supervisory functions, planning the work of others and giving them direction, and interacting with peers, superiors, clients, etc. All of these require leadership, even if not in a formal manner.

There are three main things to develop leadership potential of your followers. The first is to provide the best example possible, to be a role model for them, as well as your peers and superiors. When you give the example yourself, you set the ethical, behavioural, and professional standards for your team and the wider organization. This gives your followers something to aim for in their own performance. The second approach to develop your followers’ leadership potential is to provide them with developmental opportunities. Even if they don’t formally have responsibilities, you can give them additional tasks such as leading a small team on a project, gaining buy in from a group of collaborators or clients or other business partners, preparing a presentation, representing your group in organizational events so they get exposed to a broader environment and see how things work at higher levels of the organization. This also helps them to understand the challenges you face as a leader.

The final approach to developing leadership is to provide formal training, as well as informal mentoring and formal and informal coaching. Formal refers to the fact that the objectives being in line with official organizational goals and are a matter of policy or organizational culture. Informal refers to development that is done in an ad hoc manner according to the needs of the person being developed. Mentoring involves providing support and advice by a more experienced person, often with the approval and involvement of the organization. Coaching is more deliberate and active and aims to develop specific skills in practice, based on observation by a designated expert. A leader can both be a mentor and a coach.

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

Lead by example. We all know it’s an important leadership principle. Some would say it’s THE most important leadership principle. I remember when I was still in the Canadian Army. One day, we were being addressed by our general and he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, what is the most important principle of leadership?” Most of the officers in the room immediately shouted out, “Lead by example!”

Why is leading by example so important? I think there are three main reasons. The first is that people want to follow someone they believe is worthy of being followed. This means that the leader must demonstrate the qualities of character, commitment, and attitude that the organization or team espouses. In other words, the leader must set the standard and be a model for others. The best way to do this is by leading by example.

The second main reason leading by example is so important is that you can’t as a leader (or in general for that matter) ask someone to do something that you can’t or, worse, aren’t willing to do yourself. People tend to view leaders who say one thing and do another as hypocritical. It undermines morale and cohesion in the team, and it separates the leader from his or her followers.

The final reason, and perhaps the most important one, is that leadership means being in front, by definition. If you want someone to attack that hill, then you had better be close to the front so that others will follow you. If you want people to adopt certain behaviours in your organization, you have to be willing to adopt them yourself, and before all the others. This doesn’t mean you have to be the best at absolutely everything, but it does mean you have to be willing to move first, to take the same risks as everyone else, and be where the decision point is. You can’t do that from the safety of your bunker.

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

I find most people confuse morale and mood. You can have high morale, but a bad mood, in an organization. Conversely, you can have good mood, but low morale. That’s because they are somewhat related but distinct concepts.

Morale is the willingness to do what it takes to succeed and to overcome obstacles to achieve desired outcomes. When you look at it that way, it’s relatively easy to see that a group can have high morale but everyone can still be in a bad mood. For instance, a sports team can have high morale, and because of that, be thoroughly pissed off because they’ve lost a game.

There can even be internal conflict, and that still wouldn’t necessarily lower morale. A lot of highly successful rock bands have had a lot of internal conflict and rivalry (the Beatles and the Rolling Stones) and that led to massive creativity, but they didn’t necessarily all like each other or “get along.” That, to me, is a sign of high morale.

In a sense, I think that low morale is a kind of collective depression. When people start saying “what’s the use” and “why are we even doing this”, those are sure signs that morale is slipping.

There is more on this in this newsletter I wrote about 4 years ago:

On Morale and Cohesion

Here is a list of signs of high morale I made a few years ago:

Cooperation and mutual aid
Hard work and sacrifices
Constructive criticism
Confidence in self and leaders

© 2010 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.