I was privileged recently to meet Ben Roberts-Smith (the most decorated Australian soldier of the past 20 years) and hear him deliver a key note on leadership to a client I was working with. He told some incredible stories about his time on the battlefield with the SAS, seamlessly weaving his views on leadership into the stories. There were many things that struck me from his presentation and I thought I'd share a few here.
Leadership is behavioural - You must lead by example, this is what is meant by integrity in leadership. You must role model for your team the values and behaviours that you espouse and expect from them otherwise they will remain simply words on a page.
Planning allows you to be agile. Planning for multiple scenarios ahead of executing those plans allows you to adjust quickly in the field when things change, as they inevitably will.
The SAS always use the 1/3, 2/3 rule when planning. Irrespective of how much time there is to plan, always allow 1/3 for thinking, discussion and decision making (mental preparation) and 2/3 for gathering the required resources (physical preparation) for the task or mission at hand.
Get the basics right 100% of the time. We are what we repeatedly do, excellence therefore is not an act but a habit.
Fundamental belief in the mission enables you to do the extraordinary. "Those who understand why can bear almost any how" (Nietzsche).
Leadership can come from all levels. Being in command doesn't always mean maintaining control. Recognising when to step back and let others lead is a key trait of great leaders.
Physical courage is easy to find, moral courage to do what is right despite the personal consequences is what most people lack.
It was this last thought that struck me most profoundly. Whilst for most of us our daily lives do not contain any of the life and death decisions that those on the field of battle face, physical courage is fairly common place. As a society, what we and our leaders too often lack is moral courage. Courage to do and say the right thing, to stand up for and protect those that cannot protect themselves and to call out those that are corrupt and abusive. We only need look at how whistleblowers are treated, the global issue of violence against women and corruption in corporate and public life to see how true this is.
In these particularly turbulent times in the UK and globally what we need from our leaders is less politics and more moral courage. We will soon find out how our new leaders do.