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Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)

Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)

Todd Henshaw, a professor at Columbia University, is Academic Director of Wharton Executive Education. Previously, he directed the leadership program at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

'Kill' the Leader

If a leader can't unplug for a few days, the leader and the organization probably haven't spent enough time or invested the resources necessary to develop the top team. It's time that we moved past dependence on unitary leadership from the very top and began to think of leadership as coordinated action and direction.

Leadership can and should be shared. Solid succession planning often means handing the reins to the next in charge and pulling yourself out of the daily rhythm of the business to allow others to lead. This not only provides valuable information regarding the capabilities of "Number Two," but also allows the chief executive to step back from daily operations to think, relax, plan, or get to know the kids on vacation.

Workaholism and micromanagement are contagious, start at the top of organizations, and trickle down. If the top leadership has difficulty stepping back to let others step up, this will become embedded in the culture top to bottom. Imagine an entire organization where deputies can't get the necessary leadership opportunities to develop.

In the military, we often "kill" the leader during training exercises to assess the development of the top team, evaluate clear communication of the mission and the readiness of the second in command to continue operations. If the unit can't continue its mission, the lessons learned are focused on pushing information down to the lowest level and preparing those in line to command.

By Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)

 |  August 11, 2009; 10:39 AM ET
Category:  Leadership personalities Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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You can do this kind of thing in the military, where you have a clearly-defined hierarchy and well-trained subordinates, not to mention standard operating procedures for many situations. Private organizations are another matter. You may have none of these advantages. At the small nonprofit where I work, the executive director just took off on a two-week vacation without notifying her small staff until the day she left (and that by sticky notes), leaving us unable to answer visitors' questions or even to issue paychecks. She'll have a great "unplugged" vacation, but she may come back to a staff-free organization.

Posted by: swmuva | August 11, 2009 12:10 PM
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