Tactically Teaching Leadership

How are you intentionally building stronger leaders in your organization?

While it's important to focus on character in teaching leadership, focusing on competence and regularly putting your team in situations where they have to practice what they're learning, is important.

Rorke Denver shares examples from his experiences with training Navy SEALS.
I'm always surprised that when leadership is discussed - and rightfully so it's discussed constantly, and with much passion - that more often than not, the prevailing theme is character. Now, I'm all for character, I have nothing against character. A leader will be worth little without it, and can expect an untimely end of their leadership journey if character flaws abound.

My issue is that most folks who need and/or seek leadership training or guidance have already established and often entrenched character traits. Smart wisdom and the psychology of character says that as early as eight years old, we've basically learned the basic lessons of right versus wrong, good and evil, empathy, and so on. I hate to be a fatalist, but I think there's a whole lot about teaching leaders that we can't control or reverse engineer.

Here's the good news. Almost anything can be taught. In my last life, we had to teach young men to leverage weapons, technology, and mental focus to engage enemies in mortal combat. I can assure you we did not hand a young warrior a weapon and say, "It takes character to use this effectively." Rather, we taught them body position, front side focus, breathing, trigger control.

I also tried to get them into a gun fight as soon as possible because that's where their learning became grounded. Now, did I want my shooters to be men of character? You bet your sweet you know what I did, but that's not how we taught them how to shoot. We had to focus on the X's and O's first.

The same is true for your organization or team. You need to teach the leadership you require. Find ways to create opportunities for young and new leaders to exercise what they're learning. While it's probably not the best idea to get your team into an actual gun fight, you need to get them into the pressure cooker immediately, put them into situations where they're forced to put into action the skills that they've been learning. Then evaluate their performance. Do they need more polish? Are they ready for more? Did they fall apart in such a way that they need to be shifted to another position?

By testing early, you cut your evaluation windows down dramatically. Time is our greatest resource and the only thing we ain't getting anymore of. So let's focus our efforts to get maximum output with minimum input. By teaching leadership in functional, focused and creative ways, you'll truly create leaders worth following.

Rorke Denver

Commander Rorke T. Denver, founder of Ever Onward, has run every phase of training for the U.S. Navy SEALs and led special-forces missions in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and other international hot spots. He starred in the ...

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