Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Books: "Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual" By Jocko Willink


Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual - How to Lead, Expanded Edition

By Jocko Willink

St. Martin's Press; hardcover, 336 pages; $34.00

Jocko Willink was a Navy SEAL for 20 years, rising through the ranks to become commander of Task Unit Bruiser, the most decorated Special Operations Unit of the Iraq War. After he retired, Willink co-founded Echelon Front, a premiere leadership and management consulting company, and he is the host of the top-rated JOCKO PODCAST. He is also the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Extreme Ownership, Leadership Strategy and Tactics, Discipline Equals Freedom, and The Way of the Warrior Kid children's series.

In the insightful new book, Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual - How to Lead, Expanded Edition, Willink delivers the ultimate guide on the most complex of all human endeavors, leadership. While there are many books on the lessons of leadership, this one is the first one in field manual form that provides direct, situational, pragmatic, and how-to hands-on skills that anyone can instantly put to use.

In the military, field manuals offer straight-forward, step-by-step language and instruction for soldiers to complete the mission, so just imagine what that can do for people leading colleagues or a business.

Willink's guidance and advice for leaders can be applied to handling a promotion where you will lead your peers; dealing with "imposter" syndrome, where you don't feel worthy of your position; managing chains of command in a tactful and positive way; defining the best methods of delivering praise or criticism; accepting decisions you disagree with (for example, by-passed for a leadership position you wanted or feel you deserved); and building trust with both your superiors and those under your command; developing humility in the form of leadership; embracing the elements of "Decentralized Command," giving orders and defining what needs to be done, while allowing those reporting to you the freedom to make their own decisions; and learning to fill the leadership gap, acknowledging the dichotomy of when to lead and when to follow.

The best course of action for someone new is to listen and absorb all that your mentor is teaching you, and allow each lesson to form your foundation of how to be a leader and mentor yourself. 

Asking questions or for assistance is how you can build trust, and helps you to earn the ability to influence peers and gain their respect. Key ways to achieve this include not acting like you know everything and being humble; treat everyone, both above and below you in the chain of command, with equal respect; take ownership of the mistakes you make because you are sure to make them; generously give credit up and down the chain; and be balanced, decisive, and above all, Get the job done.

In this excerpt, Willink writes of what leadership did for him: "When I reported to SEAL Team One after completing Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training (BUD/S), there was no leadership course. New SEALs were issued no books or materials of any kind on the subject. We were expected to learn to lead the way SEALs had learned for our entire existence - through OJT, or on-the-job training.

Of course, there are some advantages to OJT. It is helpful to be coached and mentored by a solid leader who trains you as you go through the real challenges of your actual job. In the SEAL Teams, that means a leader telling you exactly what to do in various scenarios as you go through them. If your leader happens to be a good leader, is willing to invest in you, and if you are smart enough to pay attention, you will eventually learn something about leadership.

But there are some major shortfalls to this method of teaching leadership. First of all, not all leaders are good leaders, and the SEAL Teams are no exception. When I got into the SEAL Teams, it was 1991. There was no war going on. The first Gulf War had just been fought, but the ground war was over in just seventy-two hours. SEALs only conducted a small number of operations, and they were relatively easy. Almost all other deployments before that, for the better part of twenty years, had been peacetime deployments. SEALs' primary task had been training other countries' militaries. Actually engaging in combat seemed a far-off dream to me and most of us in the military. The reality was, the SEAL Teams - and the rest of the U.S. military - had been in a peacetime mode since the end of the Vietnam War. That meant leaders weren't really tested. A great leader in the SEAL Teams got pretty much the same assignments and advances just as quickly as a bad leader.

There was no guarantee that a leader in a platoon was supposed to be mentoring young SEALs was the type of leader who should be emulated. On top of that, not all leaders are looking to mentor their subordinates. Furthermore, even the best leaders can only truly invest their time and knowledge in a handful of their people. Even during peacetime, there is a ton of administrative work to be done, and there is a good chance that leadership coaching and mentorship will slide off the schedule.

For the junior SEALs, it was incumbent upon them to pay attention. But there were also plenty of distractions. Sometimes it was difficult for a junior member of the team to understand he would not always be a new guy - that one day he would be a leader in a SEAL platoon, and he needed to learn everything he could so he would be ready.

I was lucky. I had some truly great leaders who invested in me. They took the time to explain things to me. They talked me through strategies and tactics. Some of the Vietnam SEALs told stories that held important tactical leadership lessons. I listened. Those stories and lessons sank in. Eventually, I was able to put the leadership theories I had learned to the ultimate test - in combat. I then codified those lessons and passed them to the young SEALs entering the ranks. I tried to teach them how to lead.

The goal of leadership seems simple: to get people to do what they need to do to support the mission and the team. But the practice of leadership is different for everyone. There are nuances to leadership that everyone has to uncover for themselves. Leaders are different. Followers are different. Peers are different. Everyone has their own individual characteristics, personalities, and perspectives. I often tell leaders that what makes leadership so hard is dealing with people, and people are crazy. And the craziest person a leader has to deal with is themselves. That being said, even crazy has a pattern; there are patterns to human behavior. If you can recognize the patterns, you can predict the way things are likely to unfold and influence them."

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