Real Leaders Care

Continuing our series about leadership this week. I went to my library to find a book about leadership. Perusing one of those books I came across this. I read a story about General Earl Hailston, the commanding general of Marine Forces Central Command. The general was interviewed while he and his troops were a few miles off the border of Iraq ready to go into battle.

At that time General Hailston was the only general in the armed forces who enlisted and came up through the ranks. This general was known for his humble and caring attitude.

The general was being interviewed by Charlie Gibson who was there with him near Iraq. When Gibson asked him if he had any hobbies outside of work. The general said. “Yes, I love photography, especially taking photos of my men.” He shared that while he had been waiting for the past few days , he would take photos of his men, and at night he would email the photos with a brief note to their mothers back in the United States.

Gibson asked if he could see a sample of a letter and the general walked into his tent and turned on his computer.

Here is the letter he showed Charlie Gibson:

Dear Mrs. Johnson,

I thought you might enjoy seeing this picture of your son.

He is doing great. I also wanted you to know that you did a wonderful job of raising him, you must be very proud.

I can certainly tell you that I’m honored to serve with him on the U.S. Marines.

General Earl Hailston.

By the way, this story came from a great little book I read this week called 212 The Extra Degree. Extraordinary results begin with one small change. By Sam Parker and Mac Anderson

I think this story says it all. The book speaks to the fact that if you just do a little more you will succeed. Water boils at 212 degrees, not at 210 or 211 but exactly at 212 degrees. Tying that to our lives the metaphor is that if we can do just a little more, we will be successful.

Thomas Edison said it best, “ Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Or as that other great sage said, “ You give a hundred percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn’t enough, in the second half you give what’s left.” Yogi Berra.

But the first thing we have to do is the work, and as leaders we have to work harder than anyone, we have to set the example.

But most importantly we have to find opportunities to demonstrate our loyalty to the people who work for us.

The first thing we have to do is hire the right people. People not only have the skill to do the job but the passion as well. You can teach the product, but you can’t teach the passion.

But you have to start with the right people. A team is really a partnership that team member shave with one another. They know that if they work together as a team, they can accomplish so much more than if they work as prima donnas.

Wilt Chamberlain is known for being the only player to score a hundred points in a single game. Frankly, I think what that record indicates is terrible. Good for Wilt but what was the rest of the team doing? Guess how many NBA championships he has?

Bill Russell his arch enemy on the court and interestingly enough his best friend off the court is considered the best defensive player of all time, and has eleven, count them eleven NBA rings. Jordan another all-time great player and a great team player has six. Oh, and Wilt the Stilt? He has two, in all of the great career with all of those high scoring records, he has a measly two NBA rings.

Now, if that is not a great example of the power of leaders and the power of teams, then nothing is.

Here are five things that great leaders always do:

  1. Leaders lead by example. They never expect their team members do anything they would not do themselves.
  2. Great team leaders are encouragers. They encourage their team members to be the best they can be.
  3. Leaders inspire. They are creatively inspiring, always finding new ways to get their teams inspired to go one more inch, one more foot, one for mile.
  4. Leaders are secure enough to look for and hire people who are smarter, more skilled, more driven, more talented, and more passionate than they are. People who are just plane better than they are.
  5. Leaders can see the entire team as one working unit. They choose people who might be mediocre on another team but have a certain ability that will make them shine as an integral part of their team.

And one more, always under promise and over deliver. Leaders believe in their team and it’s ability to succeed that they never quit. No matter what the odds they keep moving forward. The realize that people don’t fail. They just stop trying.