‘Leadership is action, not position.’ These words came from Donald H. McGannon, former chairman of Group W, Westinghouse Broadcasting and Cable Inc. and President of the National Urban League (Sharma, 2019). I have served with a number of leaders in my 14 years of service in the Army. However, I can count in one hand the number of true leaders I will undoubtably follow regardless of their rank or position. In the Army, we often assume that a person in a leadership position can lead others, this is a mistake that sadly can halt organizations from performing to their true potential. ADP 6-22 define, “Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improving the organization”. If you ask soldiers nowadays to define leadership on their own words, they will often blurt the words “giving directions and motivate them”. While these actions are important, it is simply a fraction of what a leader must provide to be truly effective.
Leadership Through Influence
Power of influence is one of the single most important qualities of a leaders (Cameron Yarbrough, 2019). Leadership influence is a set of skills learned through practice, knowledge, and understanding. To influence is to have an effect on the performances, thoughts, attitude and choices of others. I was notified by my Battalion Command Sergeant Major that a tremendous opportunity is approaching my direction. Shortly after, I received orders to fill a First Sergeant position as a Sergeant First Class in Tacoma Recruiting Company. This organization ranked in the bottom of brigade and have consistently failed to achieve their monthly, quarterly and annual mission. It will be a complete lie if I tell you I was not scared. I started doing my research and preparation prior to arriving to my new destination. To my surprise thru conversation with the current company commander, she voices her concerns and a sense of negation to have myself as her senior enlisted advisor. She stated “I need an E-8 to fill this position”, I can candidly rebuttal with “how did that work out for you the last time?”. Why do we associate paygrade, rank or position with leadership performance? The assumption of a higher rank equates to success in running an organization is proven to be a challenging issue in our formation. I refuse to be followed, respected and recognized solely based on my rank or position. I prefer to be recognized based on the impact I had on the organization, and the growth and success of the people I led.
I am fully aware that this assignment will be challenging, particularly leading a group of leaders. A recruiting command is very a unique organization as it is comprised with mostly Noncommissioned Officers from the rank of SGT to SFC who have leadership experience of their own. It was noticeable from the beginning that these leaders are un-equipped and lack the knowledge to perform their duties as a recruiter. I knew from experience that intimidation and brute force will only result to more problems. My immediate action was to build trust by establishing credibility. We build credibility by having clear and concise intent, display that we are fully capable, and can validate what we preach through actions and track record. Credibility “boils down to two simple question: 1) Do I Trust myself? and 2) Am I someone others can trust?” (Stephen Covey, 2006). Establishing trust is an essential step in gaining influence with others. I also shared my passion in leading others and the excitement to compete in a high level. It is very easy to fake motivation. Passion is very authentic and something that we value. When we show true passion to our profession it becomes contagious to others. “If a leader displays no passion for a cause, why should anyone else care” (Kouzes and Posner, 1995). We must also identify realistic expectations and hold ourselves and subordinates accountable. I communicate with my NCOs and give them clear details on the task I put out on the daily basis. We openly discus achievable expectation and practice accountability when we fall short as a team. As a leader of leaders, I myself must be similarly be open to be influenced by others. As leaders, we need have an open mind in receiving ideas and encourage alternative viewpoints from our subordinates. By demonstrating openness, we can commence to build respect and trust with others, resulting in effectively increasing influence. Embedded in the Creed of the Noncommissioned Officer states “My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind: accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers”. Neither one is more important than the other, it is equally significant in order to have a successful organization. In a matter of six months after applying simple changes, we have seen dramatic improvement in our NCOs morale and welfare, their production, attitude and we have created a winning culture. Our company is currently rank number 1 of 42 year to date for fiscal year 2020 in 6th Recruiting Brigade. I would like to think that my rank or position directly impacted this organization, but we know that is incorrect. But I do believe that my deed and ability to lead through positive influence made a difference in affecting the actions of many.
In conclusion, leadership has been defined as the capacity to influence others. An effective leader changes subordinates into action not with intimidation but by prompting their desire and belief in the idea and goals expressed by the leader. Misrepresented influence can bring disastrous results. However, appropriately steered, positive influence can bring about tremendous change as individual actions align with group efforts to yield changes that grows rampant. A leader, who, through intensive and thoughtful determination, employs positive influence in others, will build confidence and become a genuine driving force toward greatness.
- ADP 6-22. (July, 2019). Army Leadership and the Profession Retrieved from https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs
- Yarbrough, C. (August 22, 2019). How to be an Influential Leader. Retrieved from https://torch.io/leadership-influence
- Sharma, A. (2019, June 12). Leadership is action, not position. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leadership-action-position-ajit-sharma
- Covey, S (October 17, 2006) The Speed of Trust New York, NY Free Press
- Kouzes, J and Posner B. (April 17, 2017) The Leadership Challenge Chicago IL, Jossey-Bass