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Don't Go Overboard, Rambo, pages 178-181

Part Two: Leadership Tactics, 1. Becoming a Leader, I. Don’t Go Overboard, Rambo, (pages 178-181)

I. Don’t Go Overboard, Rambo

“Leadership, in most cases, should be subtle”. You don’t need to go around and tell people you are the leader. In most cases, this will offend people. While Rambo is a cool movie character, doing things without regard for others doesn’t work in a team environment. By telling people you’re the leader, you are acting like Rambo. While there are times that leadership needs to be bold, time of distress, or low morale, most times it is not needed. Using subtle direction will most times be a better choice. It will allow your teammates to move forward based on their ideas. Using subtle direction is also useful in coaching and mentoring situations. If you were to ask someone to coach or mentor them, implicitly you are saying that they lacking in some area and that you are better than them. This can really bother people with big egos. “Unfortunately, the people with the biggest egos are usually the ones who need the most coaching.” Using an indirect approach can look like this:


Instead of, “Let me coach you how to do that,” try, “Can you explain why you did it that way?”


By starting the conversation, you can embed your thoughts and ideas. Over time, they will be seen as better and the mentee will have an easier time adapting their way of thinking. “The best leaders usually led not by orders but by suggestion.” The teammates then identify and use the best ideas to create their own. “It instills an incredible level of ownership into the troops because they all get the feeling that the ideas they are executing are actually their own. Indirect leadership almost always trumps direct leadership.” Whereas there are times when direct leadership is needed especially in times of duress when time-sensitive decisions are critical. “…be as subtle as you can – until you can’t. And then lead.”


This section reminds me of the saying “Being a leader is like being a lady. If you have to tell someone you are, you probably aren’t”. Too often, new leaders do not take the time to fully understand a situation and when push comes to shove, the terrible excuse of “because I’m the boss” is used by them to justify their reasoning. While there are rare instances that “because I’m the boss” is necessary, it should be avoided at all costs. During my time in the US Army, I had a few too many platoon leaders, who had attained their rank by seniority and not by leadership ability, often bark at us “because I’m the sergeant and you're the private.” It frustrated me to no end. I thought I had good ideas and wanted to share them. However, by lording their rank over me, I felt irrelevant and overtime stopped caring. It was one of the main reasons I did not remain in active duty. That type of phrase can do that much damage. As a new leader, there are many challenges. One is to not let your ego get the best of you. That is, you don’t have to know everything. Knowing that get’s you one step closer to being a successful leader. When time permits, be a humble indirect leader and always include your teammates in driving toward your mission. Being a leader can be lonely, but it does not have to be. Leave Rambo for the movies!

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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