Businesspeople have at times turned to the military for strategic models - and I think it's a good idea.
I have written in the past about leadership lessons I learned in the Israeli Army. The U.S. military has similar values, and I have learned much about them from reading Larry R. Donnithorne, author of "The West Point Way of Leadership: From Learning Principled Leadership to Practicing It." I also recommend a new book based on the maxims of Gen. George S. Patton.
This column looks at a few of the things I've picked up from these and other sources.
Care more than others think is wise.
One of the biggest challenges leaders face is showing that they are devoted to their missions and the people who accomplish them. Leaders cannot be effective without inspiring those who get the job done. As Gen. Omar Bradley said, "People are not robots, and should not be treated as such."
Caring does not mean expecting less, or cuddling. Caring does not mean that every employee will like what you do. There is a dynamic tension between mission accomplishment and employees' needs; good leaders find a way to strike the right balance.
Risk more than others think is safe.
Many organizations, particularly bureaucratic ones, foster the attitude that if employees stick to the rules and avoid trouble they will be successful. This is not constructive; leaders should learn to accept honest mistakes.
Herb Kelleher, chief executive officer of Southwest Airlines, talks often about how mistakes afford opportunities to achieve personal growth, and do not threaten a career path in the company.
Thomas Watson Jr., the former International Business Machines Corp. chief executive, was handed a resignation from an employee whose mistake cost the company $10 million. Mr. Watson rejected the resignation, saying, "You think I'd let you go now after spending $10 million on your education?" That is a healthy leadership attitude.
Dream more than others think is practical.
Being practical is important but can be confining. Reaching for the stars while keeping your feet on the ground inspires employees.
We all want to be daring, and true leaders are. Such leaders create a future for their companies, instead of boxing themselves in the past.
Expect more than others think is possible.
At my previous employer, Roosevelt Savings in New York, we set a goal of 30,000 checking accounts net growth for 1996. I was told again and again that this was a "mission impossible," demoralizing to troops who knew that was so.
We ended the year with a net checking account growth of nearly 60,000.
Leaders must be able to expect the "impossible" when they know it can be done. This is a lesson that Jack Welch at General Electric shared with his subordinates many times, and is something that military organizations adhere to.
People are capable of much more than they give themselves credit for. It is the leader's role to bring out the capabilities of subordinates and let them shine, in the process rewarding them as well as shareholders.Ms. Bird, an executive vice president of Wells Fargo Bank, is based in Sacramento, Calif.