December 2021

The Three Foundational Pillars of Leadership

by Erin Yeagley

During 2021, we shared a series of "Improvise, Adapt and Overcome" (IAO) stories with our readers and followers, highlighting client stories and individual historical accounts that demonstrated the power of the IAO mindset when faced with adversity. There is no question that the COVID-19 Pandemic created worldwide disruption and uncertainty and, in some cases, even destroyed organizations who were unable to adapt to a "new' normal. So, what sets these successful organizations apart? How do leaders prepare for such monumental change and disruption? There wasn't a drill or a plan to address a worldwide pandemic, was there? If you really dig into it, the senior management of these organizations were all committed to the three foundational pillars of leadership.

Know Yourself — Know Your People — Know Your Stuff. Organizations that understand, implement, and practice these principles can achieve anything — even during a historic pandemic.

These concepts form the foundation of our leadership model. An organization's success is absolutely dependent on a deep understanding of these pillars. As a leader, you can know a lot of stuff but, if you do not invest in getting to know and truly understand your people or making an investment in truly knowing yourself, you risk capitalizing on opportunities for success and could, in some cases, actually put the organization at risk for failure. If we don't begin with focusing on a deep understanding of these 3 pillars, it becomes very difficult to adapt to unforeseen challenges or even be aware of new opportunities for growth and expansion.

In the whitepaper, Improvise, Adapt and Overcome: How to Survive and Thrive Through Challenges, Scott Weaver identifies 14 key principles of action that leaders can take when confronted with disruption. However, in order to effectively implement these principles, you must first understand the three foundational pillars of leadership.

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

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Know Yourself

Knowing, understanding and owning your strengths, weaknesses and blindsides enhances your ability to operate swiftly and confidently in any situation. Great leaders understand when to lead and when to allow others to orchestrate success. Great leaders understand that this process is not about ego, it's about results.

When a leader has an acute awareness of self, they have the remarkable ability to shift between the "Be in Charge", "Guided Autonomy" and "Follow the Follower" principles of action based on the situation and circumstances at hand.

Know Your People

People are individuals. As a leader, you must embrace the fact that people are very different. What motivates you may not motivate them. Do you really know your people? Do you practice active listening using your ears, eyes and heart? When you invest in asking open ended questions and really listen to their words and thoughts, not only do you learn what motivates and de-motivates individuals on your team, but you also reinforce trust and respect within your organization.

Knowing your people allows you to be more direct and transparent because you have demonstrated an ability to consider diverse opinions and views while still focusing on accomplishing the task at hand. Leaders can easily engage in the principle of action: "Shared Consciousness", "Creating a Spirit of Camaraderie" and "Focus First on Accomplishing the Mission" when faced with new challenges.

Know Your Stuff

This is the fundamental of setting and managing priorities; holding yourself and others accountable; and coaching to develop your people. When you give your team a descriptive view of what success looks like, establish what tasks are critical to achieving that goal, and identify the risks and obstacles that may be present, team members are easily able to focus on what's important and ultimately deliver results.

Knowing your stuff allows you to be more flexible when faced with adversity. When you know your priorities, and can identify potential obstacles in advance, you give yourself critical "decision space" to evaluate the situation and engage in thoughtful and deliberate solutions. When a leader knows their stuff, they automatically practice IAO principles of action by "Using Commander's Intent", "Focusing first on accomplishing the mission" and have a reality-based understanding that "Plans Don't Survive Initial Contact".

These three foundational pillars are why the leaders we highlighted this year were able to easily adapt an IAO mindset.

Brandon Lark was able to improve knowledge sharing by opening his weekly virtual meeting to the entire company, developing core values alignment and improving engagement and accountability.

Pappy Boyington was able to transform a squadron of misfit fighter pilots into a major force during WWII; bringing down more than 94 enemy aircraft and making headlines back in the US.

Jordan Pritt found success transitioning from Salesperson to VP of Sales by embracing the process of getting to know his team and truly understanding their strengths, needs, and values.

General Ridgeway was able to reinvigorate a shattered army and inspire a restored fighting spirit.

James Nanson was able to create a motivational climate for his staff; encouraging innovation and bold initiative, and ultimately training his team to prioritize their endeavors. This allowed them to safely remain open and fully operational during the pandemic.

And many more...

If you are interested in strengthening your leadership ability and maximizing your organization's performance and efficiency, it all starts with the three foundational pillars of leadership — Know Yourself — Know Your People — Know Your Stuff.