Erik Jendresen was the supervising producer of the wonderful series BAND OF BROTHERS. I have just come across a note I was sent some years ago by the man who inspired the series, Richard Winters (played in the series by Damian Lewis). I had written to Mr Winters to tell him what his story had meant to me, and told him I was hoping to go into politics, so he sent me this note from Erik Jendresen on leadership.
Leaderhip is ineffable and independent of ambition. There are those wjo seem to radiate a field of influence to which others will respond in the same way that metal filings line up in a magnetic field. A leader is invariably self-motivated - not to achieve any particualr ambition, eather motivated to purse personal excellence. Invariably, human beings respond to and follow individuals who are themselves motivated. The best leaders are motivated by a need to excel; that pursuit is a passion and a source of deep personal satisfaction.And there, ladies and gentlemen, you have an eloquent explanation of why Tony Blair was a leader of men, while Gordon Brown will never be.
The idea, early on in one;s career in the miliatry, that "the best way to get through this - the most effective and safest way to survive the bullets and the bullshit - is simply to do the best that I can" is not about impressing superiors or getting noticed. It is about a personal choice of action based on standards that are set by the individual and in this way independent of (and sometimes higher than) the standards imposed by the military establishment. In seeking to acgieve those standards the leader is by definition a man or woman of action - self motivated and self governed - and their actions speak louder than ehortations or pep talks.
The great secret of leadership is to empower others - to strive for ecellence and peak performance. Thus the officer always acts "for the men" - and this commitment generates force loyalty. All of which to say is that leadership can truly be distilled into a two word formula. Follow me.
Follow my example. Follow my commitment. Follow my formula for personal satisfaction and peak performance. Follow me over that hill and into harm's way, because I will go first and show you the way.
So a leader allows actions to speak louder than words or posturing. He or she puts the individuals under his/her command first - even before themselves. He or she is a master of training, not merely a graduate. I imagine that a man of ambition cannot achieve true excellence as a leader because men of ambition are motivated by more than excellence - they have one eye on advancememt, one ear cocked toward unit politics, one nostril flared to sniff out opportunity, and, invariably, subordinates can sense ambition and ulterior motive in a leader like a dog can sense fear.