Monday, February 6, 2012

Leadership Lessons from General Colin Powell

By Al Norval

I was reading an article the other day on Leadeship Lessons written by General Colin Powell Chairman (retired), Joint Chiefs of Staff. In it he had a quote that I really liked:

    “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership”

He went on to say that in his opinion, given this test, the majority of CEOs would fail. They would fail because they have built barriers to communcation preventing people from even asking for help and they have fostered a culture where problems are seen as failures or weakness and so are covered up.

This speaks directly to Lean Mental Model # 5 – Problems are Gold, buried teasure to be unearthed. But in all too many organizations, problems aren’t treated as gold, rather they are treated as things to be swept under the carpet and left alone. In these organizations the questions that are asked aren’t the Five Why’s rather they are the Five Who’s. People learn quickly to stop bringing problems to leaders. The funny thing is - the problems still exist.

I often ask people if they know of an organization in the world that doesn’t have any problems. This always raises a few chuckles. Of course every organization has problems, none are perfect. So if every organization in the world has problems, why is it that they don’t see problems as normal and as gold since they are an opportunity to get better? The answer lies with our leadership mental models. Leaders set the tone for the organization.

I agree with General Powell’s quote. As a leader, the day people stop bringing problems to you, is a failure of leadership.

For more information on Lean Leadership Mental Models, please see Lean Brain Boosters.


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