[August 1, 2017] It’s easy to tell the difference in leadership priorities. One of my favorites, and where I’ve had personal experience, is where the leader has a laser-like focus on the core mission (go figure!). U.S. Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) James Mattis is a great example of this approach and one who is known to gets things done.
A few weeks ago I profiled retired U.S. Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis and noted that he is a man of the highest caliber; a no-nonsense type of guy, open, honest, and brutally truthful (see link here). In the military we would have it no other way! Dancing around a problem in combat will get you killed. Mattis is also intelligent and an expert of foreign affairs.
Many leaders are distracted from their mission by various managerial and bureaucratic requirements they see in front of their face every day. They see those tasks as something to do that is both satisfying and getting things done but in reality, it’s not the case. Administrative and feel good duties do not lead to getting the core mission accomplished.1
SECDEF Mattis, who presides over the entire U.S. military establishment, just ordered a full review of any military training not directly relevant to warfighting. In the U.S. armed services many have complained about “mandatory” training that distracts from that core mission. Mattis appears to agree and is about to do something about it.
“… we have a politically correct military and it’s getting more and more politically correct every day.” – U.S. President Donald J. Trump
Mattis is giving us an opportunity to look into a large organization and see how one person is about to revive a warfighting culture. He doesn’t believe in social engineering in the military but he is a fair person. Controversy over Mattis and his desires to improve the armed services are about peripheral issues (like transgender service members) that are unrelated to its core mission.
The core mission of any military is to fight and win its nation’s wars; anytime, anyplace. Nothing can be more important than protecting the nation from all enemies, whether they be foreign or domestic. Mattis recognizes this and plans to refocus America’s assets to achieve that capability.
In other words, he’s an authentic leader. We can learn a lot from a leader like him.
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- The most common question for senior leaders is what they did to become successful in their field. Of course, they learned to focus on getting the right ingredients together like their education, outside coaching, consistency in what they do, and optimizing their own life to be the very best at what they do. Once the ingredients are ready, the “cake makes itself.”