Leadership and life guru Clay Lowe has just sent me an incredible email which challenges leadership (or lack thereof), within the business world.  So as the business week comes to an end I’ll leave you with Clay’s thoughts for the weekend.

“Treat people right.  Show them that you care.  And they will do anything for you.”    

In the army, I have had the privilege of working for some great inspirational leaders; leaders whom I had no qualms about following into combat, not just because it was my job, but because I trusted and respected these officers and believed in their ability to keep a clear head and make sound judgements and decisions that would get us home safely once the smoke had cleared from the battlefield. 

I have looked for this calibre of leader in the companies I have worked for since I left the army.  I have had the privilege of working for some great managers, but sadly I have not found many leaders in the corporate world.  In the 11 years I have been working in the civilian sector, I can think of only two individuals that I have worked for who were great leaders; leaders whom I would do anything for, not because they were paying me, but because I trusted and respected them and believed in their ability to lead and would have happily worked for them for free.

Why are there so few exceptional leaders in the corporate world?  I think it is because there is a lack of effective leadership development.  Yes there are leadership workshops out there and managers get sent on these workshops for a day or two and then they go right back to managing and not leading.  My theory is that it is easier to measure management, and managers don’t have to engage with people at the same emotional depth, as a true leader is required to do.   

The U.S. Army spends 4 years training its future leaders before they ever step in front of troops to lead them.  How does that compare to a 2-day workshop on leadership that is so common among leadership training in industry?  Some might say that military leadership is different.  I would argue that difference is only in degree, not in kind.  The fundamentals of leadership are the same.  How a leader applies those fundamental is the same regardless of industry or sector, or whether it is military, political, religious, or commercial leadership.

Major General John Hendrix flew down to Fort Bening, Georgia to speak to new group of new captains.  I was among them.  He gave us a big pep talk on how important the role we were about to assume was to the army and to the nation.  He reminded us that America was entrusting the lives of its sons and daughters to us as future company commanders.  And God forbid if we should fail them or betray that trust.  He ended his speech by saying:  “Treat soldiers with dignity and respect and show them that you care, and they will do anything for you.”

I wrote these words of his in my journal and have carried them around in my heart ever since and every time I find myself leading a group of people in whatever capacity, I unfold these words and reflect on them. 

My first day on the job at General Electric, an old-timer pulled me aside and said:  “General Electric might sign these peoples’ pay-check, but they work for you.  Treat them right and they will do anything for you.”

The common theme these two leaders shared was not lost on me.  

Treat people right.  Show them that you care.  And they will do anything for you.