Leadership: December 25, 2001


: Lessons For Leadership- Air Force Major General Perry Smith wrote a classic article some years ago which he called "30 Blazing Flashes of the Obvious". One of the most photocopied documents in American military history, it was recently reprinted in Marine Gazette along with 30 more bits of advice from General Smith. These are summarized and paraphrased below: 

1. Leaders must know themselves. More importantly, know how others see you and work to control this impression.

2. Avoid self-deception by being honest with yourself.

3. A leader must share his power and his time to accomplish extraordinary things.

4. Squint with your ears. Listen to what people are really saying to you.

5. Develop good instincts and trust them.

6. Learn from your failures, and do not be afraid to try or to let others try.

7. Identify people in your unit who come up with innovative ideas. Protect them from retaliation and protect yourself from the ideas that just do not work.

8. Be skeptical if someone is absolutely certain about anything.

9. You are going to have to make decisions (and stick to them) with 60 percent of the needed information. If you wait for complete info, you will be too late to matter.

10. Do not allow anyone (including yourself) to be indispensable. 

11. Leaders must have the courage to speak up in meetings when the boss is wrong or there is a better way to do things.

12. Avoid paranoia. Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. Mix loyalty and criticism; blind loyalty is fatal. 

13. Set long-term goals and develop plans to meet them.

14. Treat others as they would like to be treated.

15. Ask subordinates "What am I doing that is wasting your time?"

16. Thank the quiet and competent people who do their jobs unnoticed.

17. Constantly checking on subordinates tells them that you do not trust them.

18. Serve the boss; do not humor him.

19. Quietly tell the boss when he's wrong; publicly tell your followers when they're right.

20. Exercise regularly and watch your diet.

21. Learn proper time management and technical skills that leverage your time.

22. Tell your subordinates what you expect and what is going to really make you angry.

23. Identify people of low integrity and get rid of them.

24. Great results are important, but so is how you got them. If they were achieved by cheating, or at too high a cost, they weren't worth it.

25. Feel free to be outraged when the system is doing serious damage to your unit and personnel.

26. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated into the wrong decisions.

27. Just because you were busy is no reason to feel like you accomplished something. You need to be productive, not just occupy your time.

28. Keep track of people who can solve problems for you or tell you things you do not know, and return the favor.

29. Everyone knows the Peter Principle (your accomplishments keep getting you promoted until you reach a job you cannot do, where you stay). But even more insidious is the Paul Principle, in which someone who is good at his job steadily gets worse as he loses touch with the issues, technology, or troops.

30. Learn the new technologies and ideas to be ready for the future. 


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