The military is known for producing good leaders. This series features leadership wisdom from former Canadian military leaders now in private enterprise. In each article, a military Leadership Trait will be described by a former military leader, and then applied to business. In the Commentary section, we will discuss how to develop the trait, or how to identify that trait in an interview.
Leadership Trait – Commitment to your Team
“My father, who was a tremendous and well respected leader himself, gave me one great piece of advice as I began my own military service as an infantry officer – “always look after your troops.” This seems like a simple statement but looking after your people in large organizations, through good and bad times, in a variety of different ways is both difficult and critical to success.
My own experience as an officer taught me the importance of this great advice. While in some ways the Army can be a ‘tough love’ organization that demands significant sacrifices – and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice – preserving and promoting the welfare of your soldiers is paramount. This goes well beyond having sound plans and managing your team well, to training and equipping your people for success, helping them to develop their skills, experiences and careers, and ensuring that they have stability on the personal and home fronts.
Not surprisingly, looking after your folks is equally critical in the business world. This should not be interpreted to mean currying favour with them or going easy on expectations, standards or performance. Rather, good leaders understand what makes each member of their team tick – what are their strengths and weaknesses, what is important to them, where they want to go with their lives and careers – and find ways to activate their potential and meet their life goals. Conversely, leaders who do not have their team members’ interests at heart will not inspire commitment to their cause or achieve strong and sustained success.
So always look after your people – you will be humbled by the way that, in doing so, they will return the favour to you in spades.”
Don Ludlow, National Head of Specialized Sales, RBC Capital Markets
Don’s article focuses on a critical aspect of Leadership, that of commitment to the wellbeing of your team. There are lots of methods of getting quick results from a team (think variations of “carrot and stick”), but nothing comes close to the principle of genuinely caring for the overall wellbeing of those individuals under your authority, when measured in terms of loyalty, commitment to the cause, and long term success.
As Rick Warren says: “Great leaders genuinely care for and love the people they lead more than they love leading itself. Leadership without love degenerates into self-serving manipulation.”
In many interview settings, Hiring Managers focus on the achievements of the candidates, but not on how those results have been achieved through the teams the candidates have led. A great follow-up question after looking at achievements is “How do you personally get the best out of the members of your team?” Pay particular attention to getting specific concrete examples, not generalities or theoretical/hypothetical platitudes.
Bruce McAlpine, President of Fulcrum Search Science Inc.
Don Ludlow is National Head of Specialized Sales at RBC Commercial Markets, focused on equipment finance, commercial mortgage, trade, treasury and deposit management advice and solutions to Canadian mid-market clients. Prior to joining RBC in 2001, Don served as an Infantry Officer in the Canadian Army where he led soldiers on a number of domestic and international operations and worked in both staff and training roles. Don has an MBA from McGill University, an MSC from the London School of Economics & Political Science and a BA from the Royal Military College of Canada (Kingston).