The Speed of the Leader is the Speed of the Team: My Experience

Today, I want to tell you a story about how one good leader can change things.  I want to talk about how the speed of the leader is the speed of the team.

As a young Lieutenant I served in a Forward Support Battalion.  It was my first unit as an Army Officer.  When I first arrived at the unit, morale wasn’t very high.  The unit was average at best.  There was very little pride, the standards were low, and it wasn’t much fun to be in the unit.  It wasn’t a bad unit, but it wasn’t great either.

After about nine months in the unit we had a change of command.  A new Battalion Commander took over.  The new Commander was a STUD.  He was a doer.  He was a leader.  He had a huge VISION for the organization.  He set HIGH STANDARDS for EVERYONE in the battalion and most importantly, he led by example.

Within a few short weeks, the organization did a complete 180.  Morale improved.  People started stepping up to the plate.  People took pride in their jobs.  Standards were set and enforced.  It was a complete transformation. By the end of his two year command, our unit was easily the best organization on the entire base.

The funny thing is, the unit still had the same people.  The only thing that had changed was the LEADER.  This is quite perhaps the first time in my career where I truly discovered that the speed of the leader is the speed of the team.  The pace and the standards that the leader sets will be copied by everyone in the organization.

A good leader can turn some misfits into superstars and a bad leader can turn some superstars into some misfits!

In the paragraphs below I want to share a few things our new leader did that really made the difference.

# 1 Shared His Vision – Our new leader had a big vision for his organization.  He wrote it down, preached it daily, and shared it with all of his leaders and Soldiers.  As a result, his followers had something to aim for and they knew how they fell into the “bigger picture.”  They felt as if they belonged to something great.

# 2 Set High Standards – Our new leader had incredibly high standards for his organization.  He had high standards for leadership, physical fitness, maintenance, training, and everything else.  He expected everyone to meet or exceed the standards and perform at a high level.  People either shipped up or shipped out!

# 3 Inspired His Followers – Our new Battalion Commander inspired his followers by leading by example.  He led from the front and set a strong personal example for others to follow.  Everything he expected of his followers he did himself.  He was motivated, disciplined, trained, and competent.  He was involved and you knew that he cared.

# 4 He Didn’t Micro-Manage – He empowered his leaders, told them what the standards were, and then got the heck out of the way and let them do their job.  He didn’t tell them HOW to get their job done.  He just let them know his intent and the desired end-state, and made sure they had clear guidance and the resources they needed to succeed.

If I had to boil his leadership philosophy into a single sentence I would say this: He had a big vision, he set high standards, he led by example and he focused on improving the organization a little bit every single day.

Final Thoughts

If you are in charge of an organization, and it isn’t performing the way you want it too, look yourself in the mirror.  That’s where the problem is.  A team will ALWAYS be a reflection of its leader.   Good leaders know how to bring out the best in people and create winning teams.

What are your thoughts about the speed of the leader in an organization?  Do you think the speed of the leader is the speed of the team?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.  I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “The Speed of the Leader is the Speed of the Team: My Experience”

  1. The speed of the leader is the speed of the team…truer words have never been spoken. I think it’s also fair to say that the team’s vision is only as big as the leader’s vision, and that the team can only jump as high as the standard that is set above them. Vision and standard should be boundless; your team should feel like they can accomplish any task set in front of them and make any vision that is shared with them a reality. Set the bar high, inspire your team and make them believe they can reach that bar, then get out of the way while they work their asses off. I’ve got to say, I would love to have a leader like this in my workplace.

  2. I've seen many commanders and the great ones always had a vision and made sure the unit reached that vision. A good leader surrounds themselves with quality people who can push their message without being micro managed.
    Another thing I would add is that a good leader knows which personnel need what kind of handling. Some troops need little instruction while others will need detailed instructions. One style won't work on all troops. Great leaders that I've seen had flexible styles, but inflexible goals.

    1. Good points. All great leaders have a big vision and they share it with their followers. Plus, they know how to lead different people differently. Everyone is wired differently and you can’t use the same cookie cutter style of leadership with everyone. Just food for thought.

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