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Col. Charles D. Allen
Military scholar

Col. Charles D. Allen

Colonel Charles D. Allen (U.S. Army, Ret.) is the Professor of Cultural Science in the Department of Command, Leadership, and Management at the U.S. Army War College.

'Get'er done'

Regardless of the context, the leadership responsibilities are the same. To achieve the organizational mission, the leader has to develop teams at three levels: the corporate management team, the functional teams, and the team of external stakeholders. In the latter case, the leader is generally not in a position of authority but may be the one who can coalesce people from disparate activities to resource organizational requirements. Overall, the leader must be able to influence others to manage problems or to seize opportunities that emerge.

In building effective teams, clarity of purpose, missions, and identification of goals are essential.
The challenge is to adjust current leadership style or behaviors based upon the level of expertise and need of the internal teams. The leader must realize when the functional work force has extensive expertise and, therefore, should be empowered to do their jobs. The same is often true with the direct reports of the leader and senior managers. A "first-rate" leader has to recognize when subordinates already have it right and to either build on their successes or get out of the way.

It is incumbent upon leaders to develop the leadership capacity of their senior members and mid-level management. In many cases, those positions may have been assigned based upon technical expertise or longevity of service without the opportunity to learn, develop, and exercise leadership competencies. Thus, leaders have the opportunity and the obligation to mentor the senior members in the organization.

Essential for functional team effectiveness is meeting the needs of its members. The leader should encourage and support collaboration among the subordinate directorates and agencies. Accordingly, the leader should demonstrate commitment and concern for the work force and require that managers throughout the organization do the same.

Importantly, the leader must be skilled at crossing the organizational boundary to build teams with stakeholders and thereby, must be connected to a network of those who can provide resources and advocate for the interests of the organization.

It is my opinion (and that of others) that a distinguishing competency of highly successful leaders is the ability to build teams that can meet and conquer challenges. Building and maintaining such high-performing teams is accomplished through effective communication and by providing what the teams need in order to accomplish their purposes. The leader must be positioned at the decisive point (either in location or time) to monitor and assess what action needs to be taken. In many cases, what the team may need is for the leader to provide space so they can "get 'er done."

By Col. Charles D. Allen

 |  January 6, 2010; 3:09 PM ET
Category:  Economic crisis Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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