Leadership is a concept, skill, practice, and idea that I ponder often. I first received formal leadership training as an air cadet at the age of 12 or 13. 30 years later, 11 years of that as a full time Army Officer, I have learned many many lessons about this acrane practice. One that keeps coming up is the relevance and utility of the leadership philosophy and framework I was introduced to by the Canadian Armed Forces.
This series of short articles will go through the ten principles of leadership as I learned them. I continue to try and practice them to this day.
1 – Achieve Professional Competence
(image from Reddit – link here: https://www.reddit.com/r/army/comments/4tzzhz/i_revamped_the_lost_lt_meme_now_in_color/ )
It’s important not to be this Lt (lieutenant – the first rank you are promoted to as a commissioned officer in the Canadian military – specifically Second Lieutenant – 2Lt). Thus, achieving professional competence is a first step to being an effective leader!
What this means in terms of your workplace or profession isn’t that you are the best at everything your team has to do, or even a world leader. What this means is that your are competent in the skills you are responsible for executing. It also means you understand what your team does well enough to provide input and direction (even if you can’t do everything your team does as well as they do).
To be more specific, as an engineering consultant, one of our primary tools is a piece of software called Autocad Civil 3D. I am not an expert in this item – in fact I only have the most basic understanding of how it works, and any of the technologists on my team could “run circles” around me if we went head to head. But that doesn’t matter – it is not my job to use this software. I have to understand it’s limitations and capabilities enough to not ask one of my team for something that isn’t possible, and I have to trust my team and be open to their input on what the software can and can’t do. Just because I can’t, myself, use the software effectively doesn’t mean I can’t be an effective leader.
On the other hand, I have to perform sometimes complex engineering calculations, know how to read a set of engineering drawings and make recommendations to my team on how to improve them, and be able to put together a Contract and administer it. This is within my role, and I need to be competent in these areas as a professional. If I am not, it will be hard for me to do my job, and lead my team.
So – make sure you understand your role on your team, and those skills and functions you are supposed to execute personally, and make sure you can. If you can’t do your job, you won’t have much luck convincing your team to do their jobs to support you in achieving the mission. No one likes to follow someone who obviously doesn’t know what they are doing – it doesn’t inspire confidence.
Beyond that – trust your team. and understand their limitations and capabilities and those of the tools you and your team exploit to achieve whatever your mission happens to be.
(a corollary of this principle is to maintain that professional competence through professional development – never stop learning!)