Leadership Means Being Responsive to Others

By | September 19, 2018

[September 19, 2018]  The U.S. military sometimes embodies, not unlike other complex organizations what I will call, a “culture of slow change.”  If there is, however, one thing that is quick, predictable, and helpful, it is the fact that our troops themselves are highly responsive.

Want a mission accomplished?  They are on it quick and decisively.  What an answer to a question?  You get the answer accurately and speedily.  Need help?  They will be there.  The U.S. military is known for being responsive in times of need or when a mission has been assigned.

Leadership also means being responsive to others and that is what you can expect from those who are successful.  While responsiveness is the centerpiece of good customer service, the military culture of slow change can be a drag on the troops’ ability to take quick, effective action.  My experience, however, is that our military leaders are responsive to others and more so than we would expect.

I often hear complaints about the Millennial generation who are part of the “everyone gets a trophy” cohort.  I hear they are not responsive to others; nor are they externally mission motivated.  This complaint is common and I even hear the complaint coming from more senior military members about young troops entering military service.

There are barriers to being responsive.  For example … organizational complexity, differing customer needs, lack of knowledge of the customer, lack of knowledge of the demands on the environment, and fear of change.  These will slow down responsiveness in any organization and drags on the creativity of each person working inside.

However, there are several keys to being responsive.  First, one must understand what the requirements that the leader is after.  Second, a thorough understanding of the decision-making process.  Third, building experience and self-awareness.  And, fourth, thinking out-of-the-box, enthusiasm, openness to trying new things, and respect will play a crucial role.

Here are a few ways to be responsive:

  • Respond quickly to email or other requests.
  • Follow up and never miss a deadline.
  • Be open to new and creative ideas.
  • Be prepared and plan ahead for future events.
  • Anticipate obstacles and prepare for them.

If you want to be responsive, it’s not easy but neither is it that hard.  It really means being mentally prepared.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “Leadership Means Being Responsive to Others

  1. Eric Coda

    It’s up to us as good stewards of our community to coach, teach, and mentor others. That is how we can help.

  2. Nick Lighthouse

    This is a common problem that will manifest itself later in life if a young person is not taught the proper ways of interacting with others. Are they on their iPhones too much? Perhaps but I find it that parents are the deciding factor.

    1. Andrew Dooley

      I agree that parents are the main problem for not teaching their kids the proper way to behave but I also blame teachers in school for tolerating it.

  3. Eddie Ray Anderson,

    I have found that the “culture” of the workplace matters. In some places, the service is great and you will never be ignored. Others, the exact opposite. Usually, successful restaurants have good customer service and they are highly responsive to your needs. Others not so much.

  4. Ronny Fisher

    Good article today Gen. Satterfield. I see from the comments that you hit a chord pretty hard. Many of us have started to see the same thing and yet we are often reluctant to speak up. If you are in any business, you should know by now that customers don’t like to be ignored or disrespected.

  5. Dennis Mathes

    Ever go into a retail store and the “clerks” run the other way so they don’t have to help you? Doesn’t happen to me often but it does occur. I don’t need lots of attention but when I have a question, I would like for someone to help me.

    1. Tony B. Custer

      Wow. You bet. I’ve experienced this more than many of my friends.

  6. José Luis Rodriguez

    Yesterday I was at Target, my favorite store. I was returning a defective item. At the counter, people were waiting in line for service. I noticed several young clerks in the back just talking. I know they saw the folks in line but chose to ignore us. Clearly they were disrespectful of us. I find this more and more common.

    1. Shawn C. Stolarz

      Thanks Kenny, it was a good article and helps add to the discussion.

  7. Anita

    Wherever I go, if a person I meet is a military veteran, I find them to be responsive. It matters not if they spent 3 years or 20 years in the military, they are responsive to whatever I ask. On the other hand, most young people I meet are completely clueless. What are they teaching them in school these days, anyway?

  8. Mike Baker

    Just yesterday I called a local vet office for my dog’s annual visit. No one answered the phone so I left a message. No one called me back. I’ll find another vet.

  9. Lynn Pitts

    I have found that those in the military and at professional organizations are very responsive but that most civilians are not. Odd behavior I must admit.

  10. Forrest Gump

    As Forrest Gump said, “stupid is as stupid does.” How appropriate.

  11. Greg Heyman

    No surprises here. THis has been going on for ages. The more people who grown up privileged, the more they ignore the rest of us. I’m being a bit pessimistic but it is there for seeing it in its glory.

    1. Martin Shiell

      I liked it when Gen. Satterfield called them the “everyone gets a trophy” generation.

  12. Willie Shrumburger

    I am constantly amazed at the number of people who don’t return phone calls, ignore my emails, and generally don’t respond to my requests or just to return a “hello.” It isn’t just the Millenial generation as noted here by Gen. Satterfield but by many people I meet regularly. What’s up with it? Is this the new American culture?

    1. Army Captain

      Good questions Willie. I too am starting to witness the same.

    2. Dale Paul Fox

      Don’t be too surprised. This is common practice today.

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