My oldest son is an Army Officer in the Infantry. As an Infantry Officer, he has the opportunity to attend Ranger school which is one of the toughest programs the military offers. Within the first couple of hours of arriving to Camp Rogers, ranger students begin a 61 day journey where they suffer through hunger, extreme physical pain and emotional/mental stress. All of this is an attempt to bring out the very best in themselves in pursuit of leading the men and women who protect our country. It’s humbling and remarkable.
Recently I got the opportunity to spend a few hours with our son during an 8 hour pass between Ranger school sessions. He allowed me the opportunity to peek inside a waterproof notebook he keeps on his person at all times throughout Ranger school. He and many others try to capture notes, tips, training aids and the like throughout the experience. There may be something an instructor says, while you are huddled together in the pouring rain at 2AM, that you want to make sure you capture. Importance is everything when everything is important to your success.
There is a saying among Rangers: Rangers lead the way. Launchers like you, full of purpose, direction and motivation, are ready to tackle whatever comes in front of you. You are on your way to making a difference. Each of you are leading start-ups, business units, and ideas.
Inspired by my son’s notepad, I wanted to touch on five principles I believe truly translate to launchers and how we can be better at leading the way.
1. Be easy to work with
Jeff Henderson introduced me to a great question that is perfect to use with any individual or team. What is it like to be on the other side of me? Are you the type of leader others enjoy following? Are you being a leader people like to be around? Work should be fun and if it’s not, you aren’t doing it right.
2. Know your team
Every individual on your team is wired differently. Do you know their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes? Knowing your team is the fastest way to leveraging the best parts of each individual for the sake of the whole. There are some terrific resources out there to assist in helping.
4. Provide safety for trial and error
Have you created a culture where mistakes and failures are encouraged? Take the opportunity to share with your team one of your greatest failures. As much as you can, admit when you are struggling with an answer or solution. You are the culture bearer on any team you lead. Does your team know that trial and error are encouraged?
5. No quitting
I asked a friend of mine, who was a former Army Ranger, for some advice for my son as he began his journey. His advice was simple and succinct: If you feel like quitting, and you will, DON’T. That’s all he said. Just don’t quit. How many times as launchers do you go through the self-doubt, the questioning of your why, the questioning of your ability and the question of quitting? Don’t. Often times the best step is the one you take not to quit.
“Amateurs train until they get it right, Professionals train until they cannot get it wrong” – Unknown
Professional soldiers and professional launchers have something in common, they both know how important it is to get it right. Practicing the skills necessary to lead people is important. Whether that is on the battlefield or in the boardroom, being a leader is important and it is something you have been called to do, so let’s work hard at getting it right. The world will be a better place when we do.