There is another leadership story I would like to tell. I tell this to future officers when I get the chance. In 2011, I was the appointed leader of an organization. While I owned the responsibility given to me, I never felt I deserved the role.
One day, my boss’s boss asked me how I was doing. I was selfish enough to think that he actually cared about me as a person. He did, but really he didn’t. He asked that question with enough trust and confidence in me that I would keep my own shit straight that he was really asking about the organization.
“How are you doing, Joe?” As we prepared for a deployment.
“I’m doing great, sir. I just have to get storage coordinated for my personal effects before we roll out.“
“BUT HOW IS YOUR TEAM DOING?“
Oh. He wasn’t asking about me at all, even though he worded it that way. He only saw me as the voice piece for the organization I was in charge of.
I learned with that exchange that when talking to a senior, you wouldn’t be in a position of trust if he/she didn’t trust that you had your own personal shit together. Once that decision is made, he/she only sees you as a mouthpiece for the subordinate organization, and nothing else.
The appropriate exchange would have been thus:
“How are you doing, Joe?“
“Sir, WE are doing great. We are fully trained and qualified on all Mission Essential Tasks, and we are ready to rock and roll on the upcoming mission.“
If the leader was concerned about my personal welfare, then after that response he/she could hone in and focus on that. However, if the leader was concerned about my personal welfare, then that wouldn’t express much confidence in me to do the job I was charged with. Stupid younger me.
Whereas, my senior advisor at the time had a great relationship with the same leader. At the end of the tour, this senior advisor asked the leader why he never came to visit us. As I was told, the leader said, “Because I was never worried about you.”
Even with my poor answer to the question, he still had trust and confidence in us to lead the organization above others.
This was Iraq, 2011. And I try to push this point to upcoming Lieutenants. It is NEVER about you, even when it is worded that way. It is ALWAYS about your team.
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