Leadership books are filled with concepts that lead one to think that the act of leading is full of greatness, empowerment, accomplishment, and incredible team dynamics
To a certain extent that’s true. The right kind of leadership can be empowering and self-affirming, especially when it applies to a high performing team. When the decisions are good ones, and the team is cohesive the good times often roll with great fanfare.
But what happens when times aren’t so good? That’s when the mettle of a leader is tested.
In 30 years of military service I have experienced opportunities to lead that run the gamut. The self-affirming experiences seem to slip my mind, and I have to work hard to remember them. For some reason, the good times aren’t as prominent as the tough ones.
You see, leadership is a lonely place when it matters. It’s not self-affirming in the moment, it’s really freaking hard!
But when I look back, it’s those times that I remember. Usually the decision wasn’t popular, the easy route was an acceptable option, and no one would have batted an eye if I had chosen the road oft taken.
So what stopped me?
My training and upbringing for one, but more importantly knowing deep down what was the right decision and making it.
How do you prepare for such a defining moment? You read!
If you read about the exploits of great leaders in extremely trying situations, you can walk away with ingrained experiences gained from their trials and tribulations.
As George C. Scott exclaimed in the movie Patton as he was outmaneuvering his enemy, “Rommel, You magnificent bastard. I read your book!”
One of my favorite leaders is Winston Churchill. His stalwart decisions during WWII are almost without peer.
Other examples include Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and businessman Jack Welsh; but there are countless others- even a book about rabbits. The Read to Lead entries in this blog offer great places to start your reading as you prepare for leadership roles in business.
The mere reading of good books is not a panacea. There are far more leadership books out there than there are good leadership books, and misapplication of concepts encountered during reading and self-study can lead one astray.
The one sure way to build up your resistance to bad advice is through pure volume. Read more, be a discerning reader and strong critic of your chosen subjects.
Leadership writing is like a Golf Magazine. Any golfer can tell you that if you try every recommendation in just one monthly edition, your golf game will soon be out of control. You need to parse the good from the bad, what fits your style and what doesn’t.
But the more you read, the easier it will be.
NoC COO B.J. Fitzpatrick is a retired U.S. Marine Colonel with thirty years of service. He served tours in Iraq as an advisor and two tours as the operations officer and chief of staff for all U.S. and NATO forces in Southwest Afghanistan. He was also an instructor and was assigned as the commander of the Marine Corps School of Infantry East. Prior to joining the NoC team he worked in veteran transition and employment programs for military service members and their families. He holds a Masters of Public Administration from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Science from the U. S. Naval Academy.