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Leadership under pressure

Leadership under pressure by Andrew Fox, Commandant at the Army command school at New Zealand Defence Force. Excellent learnings thanks to @ReconExecutive quarterly leadership breakfast.

Leadership is a journey and you never stop learning

In 2010 Andrew was appointed Commanding Officer of the Provincial Reconstruction Team, Afghanistan, they were fortunate that they had time for pre-deployment training in advance of being sent to Afghanistan, this allowed for reconnaissance using a small sub-set of the team, it was during this time that they lost a member of their team.

As Commanding officer Andrew was challenged with how to respectfully manage the situation while maintaining focus & motivation for the rest of the team, most of whom had never been deployed overseas before.

He managed this by reminding himself about his own purpose both professionally and personally.

Leadership is complex and different for different people and to quote Field Marshal Sir William Slim

“Leadership is the most intensely personal thing there is in the world, because leadership is just plain you”.

This reiterates the importance of authenticity, if you are pretending to be someone else then you’ll be seen as a failure.

Focus on your strengths and accept your weakness, noting that if you spend all of your time improving your weaknesses then you will eventually become mediocre in these areas.

Leadership can be developed as long as:

  • you want to become a leader and

  • you’re ok about making mistakes as that’s when you learn the most

Andrew explained his fundamental approach to leadership:

  • What do you as an individual need to do to get the job done

  • What needs to occur working as a group to get the job done

  • What are the needs of the task

You can spend time in any area but if you spend too much time in any one area it will fall over. Be aware of the environment and know when to bounce between the 3 to retain the balance.

Andrew reiterated the importance of self-leadership in order to maintain that reserve; unless you invest in your own mental and physical resilience you will be no good to yourself, your family and your organisation.

Crisis planning is more about mindset, how to think and get work done under pressure when the situation changes.

You should always plan for your absence, will your your team be ok to remained focused and keep moving when you are not there?

Final advice from Andrew:

Get out there and try, the only mistakes you make are those that you don’t learn from.