The Lost Art of Leadership: DeMarco Banter


“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
― Vincent van Gogh

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend about 90 minutes speaking with some of America’s finest at Squadron Officer School the other day. These “mentoring” sessions are always interesting as I seem to learn much more from them than they do from me. I’m pretty okay with that… it all goes to Andy Christiansen’s 40/40 Principle…where individuals over 40 mentor those below, but those under 40 mentor those above as well.

A couple of items we discussed–we need leaders today more than ever. These young officers are frustrated by what they perceive as a very real crisis of leadership in America. They fully understand that leadership is not about winning, promotion, or personal power. It’s all about the greater good.

To that point, a recent Gallup poll highlighted 50% of America’s workers are disengaged at work with another 20% are ACTIVELY disengaged (read actively hostile toward the employer); so 70% of America’s work force is operating in a miserable fog–a fog that only strong leadership can lift.

Why? This 70% doesn’t understand their organization’s mission or how their work contributes to the unit’s mission. Look around for disengaged employees—you can spot them a mile away…and look at their bosses. This comes down to a leadership problem.

Put simply– poor leaders don’t emphasize the strategic perspective or assist and illuminate how individuals contribute and these poor leaders do not pour meaning into their subordinate’s work. These faux leaders fail to offer positive feedback, and fail to provide coaching, mentoring, or professional development.

In other words….weak leaders don’t see value in helping their organization’s members succeed. They have no insight, tools, competence in motivation, and no strategic sense of how to align individual activities toward strategic direction.

These personal power leaders want the respect, the dignity, and the title, without earning it by leading people toward lives that matter. They want the love leaders earn without having the courage, the humility, or the wisdom to give or love back.

Greater good leaders are different. True leadership is rapidly becoming a lost art and these greater good leaders lead not to a place, but to a higher level of existence–a better truer self. It is an act of love in a very uncertain world. It’s taking time to understand people and how they can contribute their unique strengths to the organization’s mission and vision–and all the while…making these individuals stronger leaders and turning them back into the workforce and ultimately improving the world for the better.

This type of leadership is subjective—versus objective, and as a nation we have rung all we can out of the objective side of leadership—and we have to ask…are our objective leaders today better than our leaders of the past? Or is it simply a way to simplify the mass production of perceived leaders? Can we identify the greater good leader when we see her? Can we identify the personal power leader? Further…we have to remember between doing anything and doing nothing cultures get what they celebrate and the degree to which we do that…what are we celebrating today as a culture?

So now, let’s imagine an organization with leaders who:

1) Let people be themselves…and get the right people into the right seats at the right time.
2) Communicate and understand the power in enabling an organization with the free flow of information.
3) Understand and utilize people’s strengths.
4) Help daily work make sense and tie that to strategic objectives.
5) Establish rules that people can believe in and hold everyone, including leaders, accountable and responsible.

It’s all about heroic engagement and advancing leadership to improve the world….

6 Replies to “The Lost Art of Leadership: DeMarco Banter”

  1. Hi Bill,

    Just a quick thought here. I see plenty of sub-optimization in the current attitudes of the nation’s “leaders” as a whole. An observer might note that many in positions of power are there because they pursue a personal interest in accruing power, wealth, or security (job etc). The same observer may also note that power does not equal leadership. Part of the problem is a cultural value that de-emphasizes service to others or the nation as a whole in order to achieve personal wealth or status. True leaders serve those they lead, and many of those leaders view that role as a calling as opposed to a path to personal prosperity or power. The difference in approach is not always readily visible in the result — some end up in positions of power and wealth that are not good leaders — but a closer examination easily identifies who the real leaders are.

    Sub-optimization occurs when someone’s personal benefit trumps the national benefit. Hopefully the national average benefit ends up being what is good on the whole, but as you point out, developing a strategy to manage that in a highly partisan environment is challenging. It seems all too often that in that highly partisan environment, it may be easier to sub-optimize and hope for a reasonable outcome. Hope is not a good strategy as that rarely leads to the desired outcome. Far better to vigorously prosecute a “60% solution” than to wait for the perfect answer. That requires vision and leadership though, and there are many issues facing the nation that require action now….. Time to let loose the lions…..



    1. Ben: Good points and I agree… I still think our culture todays places more value on personal power and not always on the greater good. I could be wrong and just in a bit of a pissy mood… I don’t know–off my meds maybe. BUT… I have a plan!
      And… it involves lions…

  2. Bill,
    You and I have discussed Vision before, and certainly it is a key element of leadership. I was struck recently by a quote about leadership/vision/reading glasses.

    “When retail millionaire J.C. Penney turned ninety-five, he said, “My eyesight may be getting weaker, but my vision is increasing.” As I look at my laptop screen, with my eyes now boasting 1.75 reading glasses, I can also confirm that my eyesight is getting worse, but, like J.C., my vision is getting much, much better. And as my vision sharpens, I am seeing more clearly how this fragmented living impacts our lives in a negative way (Mark Merrill).”

    Today’s military leaders have lost sight of the right now. Our leaders have lost sight of how their fragmented leadership, their knee jerk reaction to budget crises, impacts our lives in a negative way.

    What would happen if aircraft commanders managed fuel the way we manage money?

    Just some thoughts.

    1. Great quote Mark… I fear more and more it is all about personal power and not about the greater good. The key is vision and strategy, but it would appear the political log jam has stopped anything resembling future thought. I am not sure it is all about the military leaders though…I think it is leadership at large. It just trickles down from on high…what your boss values is what the employee values in the personal power arena…
      The boss’s agenda is important, but not when the agenda is just defend, defend, defend…and nothing advances…

      Maybe we need a little bit more Patton…
      “I don’t want any messages saying ‘I’m holding my position.’ We’re not holding a @$%#^ thing. We’re advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding anything except the enemy’s balls. We’re going to hold him by his balls and we’re going to kick him in the ass; twist his balls and kick the living @#$%$# out of him all the time. Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing. We’re going to go through the enemy like $#%# through a tinhorn.” -Gen George S Patton (George C Scott’s version was a little different)
      Thanks for the comment Mark…

    2. Looking though the Maxwell Leadership Bible and this AM’s reading… Josh 4:6-7, and Maxwell has a note in there

      “Good leaders always provide “handles” to enable their people to grab hold of the vision. Effective leaders find a way to communicate future vision and past victories, because their people need to be constantly reminded of both.” -John Maxwell…

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