Leadership Training to Excellence

By | April 29, 2018

[April 29, 2018]  U.S. Army Special Forces (SoF) are part of a highly efficient and effective military organization like many of their counterparts in the Navy SEALS, Air Force Special Ops, and Marine Recon.  What all of these high-performance organizations do is take their leadership training and education seriously.

Their dedication to relentless training and preparation is legendary.  Yet, unlike nearly every other organization in the world where leadership is also taken seriously, they don’t overinvest in education.  They spend an enormous amount of time and energy on training in their military craft.

“Be a yardstick of excellence.  Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, Inc.

Leadership in large-complex organizations focuses almost exclusively on education.  Their education focuses on the theory of leadership, major historical figures, successful organizations, and the elements that make up good leadership.  Good stuff.

In this educational effort, however, there is often a disdain for practicing skills that are required to do the down-to-earth jobs that make the organization run.  The movement away from a skills-based leadership path to an educational-based leadership path has been on-going for decades.  The fact is real leaders get their hands dirty.

The best of the best leaders, those intimately involved in providing excellence, are involved in the everyday lives of others.  When people are asked who are the best leaders in their companies, invariably the answer was those leaders who jumped in and helped; not those who stood to the side to let the workers do the job.

By getting their hands dirty, their struggles to excellence were magnified.  They built trust and confidence in others, were better communicators, and were able to connect with folks at the right level.  Only through leadership education and leadership training did this get accomplished.

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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.

28 thoughts on “Leadership Training to Excellence

  1. Wilson Cox

    I heard about your leadership blog from an old friend, James Sutherland (went to grade school together). The subjects are refreshing and I like the analysis too.

  2. Dale Paul Fox

    Points well taken. Thank you for a new perspective on leader training.

  3. Eric Coda

    New to your leadership blog site. I hope to be able to add value too. Thank you for the privilege.

  4. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Got it, this is one message I’m already on to. This is what I teach my kids in school on daily. They must understand the formal teaching but also the practical application of what I teach. Long ago I had a professor in engineering who told me he could design a television set but could not build one. That kinda sums this up.

  5. Drew Dill

    First, I’ll say welcome back. Second, I agree with the struggle for excellence that all organizations experience.

  6. Danny Burkholder

    In the restaurant business, we find that training sometimes trumps formal education. Both are required, however. Just look at the most successful restauranteurs; Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsey, Rachael Ray, and the list goes on and on. One thing they have in common, other than being an outstanding leader (of course), is that they were formally educated on how to cook but more crucially, they had constant experience in cooking. Little to do with opening a restaurant but that came after the basics were well established.

  7. Kenny Foster

    As others have noted elsewhere, excellence in training is a philosophy. But I believe that sometimes they blend training and education together yet still are not balanced. Maybe that is why we are hearing people say there is a shortage of good leaders in the US. But I read about this elsewhere too.

  8. Tracey Brockman

    The U.S. military is known for balancing both as you pointed out BG Satterfield. That is what makes it such a fine organization with rare leader failure. When leaders fail, they are punished for it and not allowed to lead again (well not at a high level anyway). Sometimes I wonder how the Peter Principle applies here. https://hbr.org/2014/12/overcoming-the-peter-principle

  9. Joe Omerrod

    In the old days of Medical Practice (a profession to be sure), we found that the best medical administrators and leaders were NOT doctors or nurses but those who studied the profession and because of knowledge about the intricacies of it. That was the start of large hospitals and the rise in the costs of care. It became more focused on money and how to increase the dollars over patient care. So unfortunate.

  10. Rober Yellowmule

    Leaders can fail and fail dramatically. That is why there is leader education and training. Anyone who attempts to emphasize one over the other is setting up the new leader for failure.
    “Rober” and not “Robert”

    1. Bryan Lee

      What I think you will find here Rober is that Brig Gen Satterfield focuses on those leader topics that many folks want to read about and be educated on. Good of you to join us. And, please continue to make comments as you see fit. The back and forth is a learning experience in itself.

  11. Mark Evans

    More good info. Welcome back Gen Satterfield.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Yes, great to see you back on board here in your blog. Some of us thought you might have “retired.” Ha

  12. Jonathan B.

    It was not that long ago, maybe the late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s where the leader could do everything in their organization. Usually, they started at the bottom and worked their way to the top with grit, talent, and hard work. Today, we just let anybody be a leader. And that means we will have leadership failure. Just look at two major professions to see this: journalism and politics.

    1. Dennis Mathes

      Good point Jonathan and I agree. I don’t think, however, that politics is a profession. Perhaps we could say the legal profession and note two things. Many tend to be politicians (even if they are not running) and or simply bad lawyers. Like any profession, knowing basic leadership is necessary for success. Journalists have no clue whatsoever. Just read this article on the White House Correspondents’ Association’s president to see that even their top person can’t get it right. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/president-of-white-house-correspondents-association-defends-journalism-after-trump-attacks/ar-AAwu4KT?ocid=spartanntp

    2. Billy Kenningston

      I agree. Journalism as a profession has been going downhill for decades. Beginning in the 1960s when they tied themselves to politicians. That began the slow circling of the drain.

    3. Ronny Fisher

      Good info worthwhile thinking about. Someone should write about the rise and fall of journalism and politicians. But wait, that would take too long.

    4. Tony B. Custer

      Others will also note that today in the West, you don’t need any experience or credentials (no training or education) to be appointed a leader if you are a racial minority or woman. This is true regardless of the names someone will call me for pointing out the elephant in the room.

  13. Max Foster

    The concept of proper and effective “leadership training” has been around for a long time. Going back and reading some of the scholarly works, I found exactly what you wrote; that there is a conscious decision to transition leader education to the near abandonment of leader training.

  14. Army Captain

    Good morning. Once again, good to have you back. Another excellent article that points to a defect in leadership training. Leader education versus training has always been an issue in the US Army. There is a balance that must the struck and a commander has the responsibility to make this happen. Hooah!

  15. Georgie M.

    I never thought of this before but now that you mention that organizations that do “educate” their leaders may not also “train” them in some of the basics of DOING THE JOB. Thanks.

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