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Tag: Hold the Flashlight

Hold the Flashlight – Showing the (simple) spectrum of leadership

Hold the Flashlight – Showing the (simple) spectrum of leadership

Open up any business book or magazine and you’ll find it. Elusiveness is its main descriptor for those that are trying to succeed in it consistently. And anyone good in business has definitely done it wrong because you just can’t get them all right, all the time.

It’s the Simple Spectrum of Leadership

Leadership is the art of influencing another person. It doesn’t mean that you actually are the boss or manager, but means that you have the ability to influence another person to do what you want (whether or not they wanted to do it in the first place is somewhat irrelevant). The reason that leading is hard is because of the spectrum of leadership – the fact that every person is different- with different goals, focuses, experiences and motivations. You being the manager of me would require a different style to be successful than me being the manager of you. We have different personalities, places in life and desires.

So How Do We Navigate the Spectrum?

Over upcoming articles, we’ll explore some of the key elements that will not tell you how to “do leadership” (although many out there try to say it’s just following step 1-2-3) but it will give you ideas on how to approach best courses of action based on certain criteria (such as your personality, the others’ personalities, motivations, goals, projects, etc).

Today, It’s About Holding the Flashlight

When I was an Ensign in the Navy, a brand-new officer who barely knew how to put on my rank correctly, I was assigned to be the Gunnery Officer on a destroyer. I was (on paper) in charge of the 5” gun on the front of the ship. (Side note – do not let the 5” mislead you into thinking it’s a small weapon; it is quite large, shoots very large bullets and makes a whole lot of noise!). I did not know how to fix the gun. Heck, I didn’t even know how to operate the gun. That’s what my Gunner’s Mates and Fire Controlman did.

One night, right before a major gun shoot exercise – the gun went down. Hard. It was a major inspection and we had to get it going. So, it was all hands on deck. Everyone worked through the night to get the gun repaired. But… although I was the one in charge, I could do nothing. I literally had no ability to fix that gun. So – I could have gone to bed. It would be great to have the Gunnery Officer well rested before the precision gun shoot in the morning. Maybe it’s what I should have done.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I went to where my sailors were, and stood there. I held the flashlight as they needed it…as they troubleshooted and fixed various parts of the gun. I talked to them when they got tired, listened to their stories, listened as they bantered back and forth. At the time, I didn’t realize that my presence there did anything – I didn’t do anything. I just held the flashlight.

But in the morning, when the gun was fixed, and the Gun Shoot & Inspection went off as planned, my senior enlisted Chief Petty Officer came to me and told me how much I did for my team, and how my being there helped make that day a success. Shocked, I asked the question – “What did I do?”. He said that I led by example. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t fix the gun or find the right tool. It matter that my team, my sailors, knew I was there for them. And would back them up. That meant much more than just fixing the problem.

So…. I challenge you. How do you “hold the flashlight” for your team? Where do they need to know that you’re just there… supporting them … even if it’s from the background?