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 – Communication
It’s been my experience, having had the distinct privilege of leading some exceptional men and women both at home and abroad, that communication is a critical tool in any leader’s arsenal.
In order to effectively motivate a group of individuals to accomplish an objective (in the military, these can often be arduous and life-threatening), the ability to express the purpose and importance of a task with passion and conviction is vital. In many ways, you need to breathe life in to the many words that populate a planning document.
During pre-deployment training for Afghanistan, military members are required to complete a set of prescribed training that prepares them for their eventual deployment. Since most soldiers have varying levels of experience, the standardized, one-size-fits-all program – the reality of preparing thousands of personnel over a relatively short period of time – can sometimes be met with surliness, especially by those who have deployed before.
This is where communication is imperative at maintaining the morale and efficacy of a team: a leader must be able to express the importance of the task at hand, and most importantly, bring concentration back to the overall, big picture, which can easily be forgotten or ignored, especially by those who are captured by their immediate aversion to a set of initial assignments.
Since moving to Toronto, I’ve had some unique exposure to various sectors across industry, and I often think about the powerful surge our economy would experience if business leaders – at all levels – ignited a tangible spark in their teams by motivating, explaining, and inspiring. In uniform, I’ve seen first-hand the unmistakable uptick in productivity and renewed sense-of-purpose that occurs when a leader uses uncomplicated but convincing words to bolster their team. I’m convinced that private-sector employees wouldn’t be immune to this effect either and most likely desire it.
Captain Will Lymer, Director of Development for the True Patriot Love Foundation.
Will’s comments about the multiple roles of communication (“motivating, explaining and inspiring”) are instructive to all of us. Leadership communication should have the effect of moving us to action (motivation), telling us clearly what needs to be done (explanation) and instilling in us a passion for excellence (inspiration) in the completion of the task. Anything less is not Leadership, but simply Management.
Bruce McAlpine, President of Fulcrum Search Science Inc.
Captain Will Lymer is the Director of Development for the True Patriot Love Foundation. He is a reserve infantry officer who deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as a team leader and previously worked as Special Assistant in the Office of the Prime Minister.