Three different broadening assignments have afforded me the opportunity to watch senior leaders in action leading strategic organizations in a variety of circumstances; security cooperation, future force development, and working with intergovernmental organizations. Some of these experiences were critical for me when writing the third chapter (Shape, Engage, and Consolidate Gains) of both FM 3–98, Reconnaissance and Security Operations and FM 3–96, The Brigade Combat Team.
While the Chapter was written to provide units with a framework (Understand, Shape, Engage, Influence, Consolidate Gains) within the context of their operating environment, many of the lessons of that chapter translate to organizational leadership principles with applicability at all levels of leadership, particularly strategic leadership.
“Commanders must have an understanding of competing interests within the operational and information environment to determine what is of value to competitive parties and entities within their area of operations.”
— Page 3–1, Chapter 3, Field Manual 3–98, Reconnaissance and Security Operations
Many of these organizations do not have clear lines of authority between the headquarters or strategic leader and those doing the work leading to the completion of organizational goals. Some organizations within the larger organization have competing interests that conflict with each other. Effective strategic leaders are able to lead despite these challenges because they understand the interests at hand, compel both those who work for them and those outside their chain whose work impacts them, and value all those contributions whether they control them or not.
Establishing the Coalition of the Willing
When there are more dotted lines than solid lines of authority in your organization you have to compel others to pull the same direction. Establishing a coalition of the willing in the absence of an organizational structure that requires interoperability or systems that demand cooperation is essential. How?
The three influence mechanisms (cooperate, persuasion, and coercion) each achieve a similar end albeit through very different means. Compelling others to believe it is in their own best interest to cooperate with others to achieve the objectives of the organization is essential in these environments. Threats get short term gains with long term catastrophe. Logical and multi-directional dialog addressing the interests, perceived rights, and motivations of each of the sub-organizations is not only more civilized, but much more effective.
Recognition of Efforts Incentivizes Cooperation
Strategic leaders who make a big deal out of the efforts of those within the organization naturally get more out of those they lead. Part of this is making sure everyone knows how each contribution, however small it may seem, helps the collective whole achieve their goals. Awards ceremonies are great, but I’ve found drive by impromptu recognition is far more meaningful on an individual level (and there’s nothing to say both can’t be done). Further, recognition by someone who isn’t authoritatively tied to bestowing praise and recognition but does anyway sometimes means more because it simply isn’t expected or seen as required.
Enterprise systems with multiple cogs spinning in different directions must harmonize their efforts to achieve common goals. Just because someone doesn’t have to listen to you or follow your direction doesn’t mean they won’t. The most effective strategic and organizational leaders realize their ability to influence all efforts within the enterprise impacts the goals and objectives of the organization. Placing value on all the efforts that directly or indirectly impact objective accomplishment is essential to continued success.