The end of this class is staring me in the face and I am still concerned that I don’t have adequate time to really get into my leadership styles, lessons I’ve learned, and improvements I need to make. I would probably need a “real” college semester to even scrape the surface of the experiences I have had that made me who I am today, but I work with the time I have available to me. Going to a “real” college is not really my thing anyway.
The questions on this assignment leading me into this specific post are mostly related to the book. If you have never read it, I do recommend picking up a copy of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (link shows hardback copy on Amazon; paperback is 1/3 cheaper). A lot of the reading has been a form of reiteration from the lessons I learned while I was in the Army, but I have found it to be mostly enjoyable. I say “mostly” because the stuff we learned over and over in the Army is apparently as drab and repetitive in the civilian sector as it is in the military.
I can’t say it surprises me either.
You can not see me right now, but I am muttering silently to myself. “Strengths and weaknesses… strengths and weaknesses.” This would not be amazing except I am sitting in my Principles of Macroeconomics class and the people around me are starting to look for the source of the sound. While I am not typically a troublemaker in my classes, I do find humor in their resemblance to meerkats poking their heads up, peering around, and then dropping their heads back down.
Strengths and weaknesses should be easy enough to talk about, or so you would think. The truth of the matter is that I, like you, love talking about myself. It is hard, however, to talk about myself and know where the line falls between humility and conceit. I am strong in my personal values, lessons I have learned, and (most of) my skills in leadership. I have much to learn and I know that without a doubt, but I also don’t like looking like a jerk when I talk about what I do well.
I am a force to be reckoned with, or so my leadership used to tell me. Recognizing my drive, my attention to detail, and my ability to learn lessons very quickly, they pushed me into leadership positions every chance available. I excelled in “textbook” soldiering — a word frequently used for soldiers who can regurgitate Field Manuals and Army Regulations from memory and typically do well on any type of board — and my ability to read and understand people made me a natural with the responsibilities of leadership. I learned fast, but hard, lessons early in my career and continued to grow with every experience.
I was never afraid to speak my mind. No, I take that back. There was a time when true fear of disappointment or failure kept my mouth closed, but that story applies better to the next part of my assignment, so I choose to save it until then.
I was rarely afraid to speak my mind. There we go; that is better. One of the problems with leadership in the Army is that an inefficient or “bad” leader was often training their replacement. When working for one of these “bad” leaders, it does no good to question everything or to attempt to fix things before you have sufficient authority to do so. That lesson took longer for me to learn than some others. In order to break the cycle of bad leadership, a soldier had to know what they did not want to be before they considered what they did want to be. The struggle then fell with changing the norms with which the soldiers had become accustomed. Whether the change is for the better or not, soldiers do not typically handle it well.
I think I was lucky. Most of my leaders were decent people who truly cared about their soldiers. They took their responsibilities very seriously, or at least moderately seriously, and were usually okay with admitting mistakes. I learned patience and empathy from them and thrived with every ounce of responsibility they allowed me to have. I made mistakes. I made many mistakes. My leaders were firm in their admonishment, and their punishments, but understanding that the mistake was one I needed to make to continue to grow. Instead of pushing me down, they utilized the opportunity for a lesson in leadership.
Okay, come back to the present. I do not really know where I was going with all of that, but I know that thinking about my strengths and weaknesses made me think about my leaders and how lucky I truly was.
The laws in the book for this course are your basic, no-duh principles. I should not even say that though. If things really were no-duh, more people would be doing them and the book would likely not be the valuable tool it is today.
Treat others as you wish to be treated. Duh.
Be the leader you would want to follow. Duh.
Your inner circle is a direct representation of you. Duh.
The problem here, like I said, is that these lessons seem to be hard enough for some people to warrant writing a book about them. It makes me feel like a snob to chuckle — in my head; I would NEVER laugh out loud at something I know to be a viable lesson to someone — at some of the laws in this book. Maybe that comes from the leadership classes I was forced to take while I was in the Army. Maybe it comes from an upbringing strengthened with morals and citizenship. Maybe it comes from my background in martial arts. I think the point I am trying to make is that I am comfortable saying that I do possess some knowledge of each law in our book.
I have much to learn. I can’t emphasize that enough. I would be a poor leader, a bad student, and a terrible role model to say I have no room for improvement. I would probably consider that knowledge one of my greatest strengths. Recognizing every success or mistake as a lesson to be learned allows me to go through life looking for the experience. My mind is perpetually open to any possibility. This follows the same trend from my last post regarding my ability to adapt and flow.
My weaknesses are many. I often get so focused on the goal that I lose sight of the human aspect or of the path itself. “Getting there is half the fun,” or so they say. I have to constantly remind myself to take a step back and look at the big picture. I am a great judge of character, but I lack trust in people as a whole. I am great with delegating authority and responsibilities, but I am often hard on people who make mistakes. Am I too hard? I hope not. I hope they learn something from my admonishment and they understand that it is a chance to grow and not a sign to stop trying.
Yes, Ike, I am getting to the cake.
When considering an evaluation of cake, the strength lies in the flavor, the consistency, and in the fact that you are eating cake.
Hey, don’t judge; you have cake!
If you eat cake strong in flavor, moist, and delicious, you can likely equate that to quality ingredients and a visible display of a meticulous dedication to the process. A good leader must be a good follower as well. If the cake is strong, then it was obviously baked by someone who followed the directions.
A weak cake, dry and unadorned, is not pleasing to the eyes, the taste buds, or the stomach. Will you eat it still? Of course you will; it is cake! If you do not follow the baking directions, or you use ingredients of a lesser quality, your cake will cower in the presence of greater cakes. This weak cake will invoke grimaces of displeasure, comments regarding the dryness or the lack of frosting, and a desire to search for a stronger cake.
Imagine being given a book dedicated to baking a better cake. It is full of things to consider if you wish to take a weak cake and make it delicious. You do not have to follow these rules, but taking advantage of cakes that were baked before you will allow you to bake at your full potential.
You will also get to eat much cake.