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The Argument For The Leadership Test©

Arguably, lleadership is largely intangible. It is often described using words like character, honor, wisdom, virtue. However, as human beings we simply must have some manner to measure it.  Could we therefore differentiate between leadership and management skill sets, break leadership and management decision making into dimensions that would allow us to be able to measure it? That was a question posed following the groundbreaking work of both Peter Drucker and Warren and Bennis. Well into the 1980’s the literature concluded that if you are a good manager, then you are a good leader and vice versa. We would argue, nothing could be further from the truth.  They are distinctively different skill sets. The following attempts to differentiate between the two keeping in mind that neither is negative and are needed to move an organization to its full potential.

Does the thing right
Count it, but it doesn't always count
What you do
Has a view on the mission
Views the world from inside the organization
Chateau leadership
What you say
Preserving life
Manages missions
Driven by constraints
Looks for things done wrong
Runs a cost center
Initiates programs
Develops programs
Concerned with programs
Concerned with efficiency
Does the right thing
Can't count it but it always counts
The way you do it
Has a vision of the mission
Views the world from outside the organization
Front-line leadership
The way you say it
Passion for life
Manages missions with meaning
Driven by goals
Looks for things done right
Runs an effort center
Initiates an ongoing process
Develops people
Concerned with people
Concerned with efficacy

If you look at each list and attempt to summarize each with one single word, preferably not from the list themselves, then one can conclude that mangers function in a very tangible world, while leaders function in a very intangible world.

We would argue that most people come to this earth hard wired for one or the other. Their great challenge is develop an understanding of the distinctively different roles and learn to appreciate the need for both in a healthy, growing and prosperous organization.

Drucker once observed that organizations are often so focused on doing the thing right that they failed to do the right thing. Bennis in his book, Leaders, Strategies for Taking Charge  later concluded that managers focus on doing things right while leaders focus on doing the right things. Utilizing Drucker and Bennis’ work as a foundation, we asked, could we not  develop and clarify our thinking about leadership and management skill sets while improving our decision making ability in our leadership, management roles? We believe we can.

The Four Dimensions of Leadership and Management in the Decision Making Process

Leadership and management start with good decision making. If we can capitalize on the thinking of two giants in the field Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis and accept that leadership begins with doing the right thing, while managers do things right, it allows us to begin to develop a tool to be used as both a leader and manager in the process of making daily personnel decisions as well as tactical and operational issues. We argue that there are four dimensions that we should consider when making decisions. There could be more, but in the twenty five years we have worked with The Leadership Test we have yet to find that added dimension.

The First Dimension: Are we doing the right thing?

When we ask the question, “What is the right thing to do?” immediately the question that comes to mind, what I think is right and you think is right can be two separate things.  Exactly!  Can we now see why it is imperative that leadership be value and belief driven?  It is beliefs that become the parameters by which we make our decisions.  How you define your role as leader, what you believe about your people, what you believe about your profession will be the determination for the decisions that you will make as a leader. We long ago recognized that we can teach constitutional law until it comes out an officer’s ears (and we should) but if an officer does not believe in the sanctity of what he/she does, if they do not believe in the honor and nobility of what they do, then when tempted they will violate the very oath that they swore to uphold.

The Second Dimension: At the right time?

Timing is critical to everything in life.  I was never much of an athlete, even though I enjoyed sport, but name the sport that doesn’t require timing: baseball, hand eye coordination, basketball, tennis, boxing?  I never boxed much, but I had a corporal when I went through my basic police class that was a golden gloves heavyweight champion and so everyone learned a bit about boxing.  I learned from him that while hitting hard counts for something hitting with timing, getting your whole upper body and legs into a punch was just as important. When I was in the service, we had a kid in our platoon named Mayfield.  He was from inner city Philly.  Picture a kid that looks like a bowling pin; little head, kind of narrow shoulders, big hips and legs.  Didn’t look much like a boxer, but some of the fastest hands, I’d ever seen.  When we were in Vieques, the Navy decided to have some boxing “smokers.”  Now who in the Navy are the studs?  The Navy Seals of course.  The throw their heavyweight in the ring, 240 pounds with a six pack for a stomach and we Marines threw in Mayfield, the bowling pin.  The sailors were digging deep in their pockets and throwing next months paycheck into the ring in the form of IOU’s.  Mayfield dropped him like a rock in the first 40 seconds of the first round. Timing! 

But timing in all aspects of life is important.  How many jobs did you reconsider because the timing wasn’t right, promotions, marriage, relationships starting a family?  It is the same with leadership.

Let’s bring timing a little closer to home. The day after the tragedy of Waco, the burning of the compound., many of us watched in horror on live TV, realizing that there were innocent children in the building and subsequently, the most horrific loss of innocent life in the history of law enforcement in this country.  The day after the burning of the compound, Janet Reno stood up in front of the world, in what I thought was one of the most courageous moves I have ever seen any law administrator do, and took responsibility.  I have heard people in law enforcement criticize her for doing so.  Yet if you go back and look you will find that the next day, at least in my Indiana papers, the story went to page 26, concerning the hearings to determine what went wrong, so hopefully such a tragedy could be averted in the future. Note the significance of timing.  What if Janet Reno had waited nine or tenths months later to acknowledge her responsibility?  We would have seen her as simply testing the waters and then playing politics.  Conversely, following the New Orleans hurricane debacle, all we saw from most governmental entities was finger pointing and blaming.  Any acceptance of responsibility in the future by any of those in positions of authority will be little noticed.  They missed their opportunity because of the timing.

Timing is critical to leadership.  You can do the right thing at the wrong time and it will not have near the impact as a decision.

The Third Dimension: In the Right Way?

The more I have thought about and worked with The Leadership Test© I realize how important the way we do things as a leader is.  You can do the right thing, at the right time but in the wrong way and fail in your leadership role.  When one asks, “In the right way?” I will pull out of the individual two things, their knowledge of procedures and their human relation skills. Over the years we find that our officers are following procedures but it is often their human relations skills, or their lack thereof, that created the complaint or escalated the circumstance. How many times have you taken a complaint from a citizen on the “way” they were treated by a police officer? I have a good friend who grew up in New York City.  His father worked for NYPD as did six of his uncles and his grandfather.  His father eventually retired and moved to North Carolina.  Any cultural difference between New York City and a municipality in North Carolina?  He said his first two or three traffic stops sounded like this, “Driver’s license, registration and no lip!”  Now it wasn’t what he was doing, but the way he was doing it.  Now he is a very bright man and by his fourth traffic stop, he sounded more like this, “How y’all doing?  Where y’all from?  Now, head’n through town a might fast, weren’t you?  Great officers have always known it is not only what you do, but also the way you do it.  Making a notification to a next of kin is important, but just as important is the way the officer does it. Leaving a death notification on an answering machine or on a note on a door (both which have occurred) fails the test.

Mayor Giuliani’s manner immediately following the September 11th attacks turned out to not only be critical to his city’s response to the tragedy, but also set a tone for our national response as well.  He was calm, patient, compassionate, resolved and well-spoken.  The way he handled that crisis complimented so much of what he did as well. Even his traditional political detractors conceded that he did a remarkable job.  When one asks they “way” to do something, it will pull out of that individual, human relation skills as well as procedures.

The Fourth Dimension: For the right reason?

A leader can do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way but for the wrong reason and not have near the impact.

The reason you do something as a leader will greatly influence the motivation of the people involved.  If a leader of a sales team wants you to increase your sales simply to pad their pocket and the sales team knows that, it will kill off initiative and drive among those team members if they believe deeply in the value of their product and are not simply money driven.  People and leaders that make decisions that are simply self-serving will kill off motivation in that team. People get married for the wrong reasons, have children for the wrong reasons,(to please a mother or father sometimes in both cases) take promotions for the wrong reasons (just for the pay increase) all of which will impact the long term motivation of the married couple, the family and the individual who takes the promotion and those that work directly for the money driven leader.

I have always believed that for all the good that J. Edgar Hoover did for law enforcement, and he did many good things, he will never get the full recognition that he rightfully deserves, because of  the way he did things (sometimes heavy handed) and often for the reasons. (self-serving power)

What evolves when considering these four dimensions in the decision making process is what we often refer to as The Leadership Test©. 

This test forces our decision making to both sides of the ledger so we consider both leadership as well as management issues hopefully increasing the quality of our decision making both as a manager and a leader.  Doing the right thing, deals with intangible values, timing is an issue related to both leadership and management, in the right way will require  us to look at our knowledge of procedure and protocol required within our work as well as human relations skills while considering the reason we do things will arguably impact the leader’s team. To pass The Leadership Test© you must get a “yes” to all four questions.  One “no, and you need to reconsider your decision. 

Failing The Leadership Test
Bill Clinton is a brilliant politician whether you like his politics or not.  He is also very bright, but how many times did he fail his presidency because he so often failed to do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way and for the right reason?

When accused of wrong doing with a young intern, he put his finger in our faces and  did the wrong thing (lied) albeit at the right time in the wrong way (arrogantly denying any wrong doing) and for the wrong reason. (I’m sure he would say to protect his family and presidency. Personally, I sensed it was to protect Bill Clinton.  He flunks the test.

Nine months later, he does the right thing, (admits his wrong doing), at the wrong time, (nine months too late), in the wrong way, (spends most of his time during the admission attacking Ken Starr, (He has every right to attack Ken Starr, should he wish, but not then.) for the wrong reasons. (The next day he was testifying before a grand jury, and if lies there, he will go to jail as a convicted felon.)

Now in all fairness to Clinton, is he the first politician to do such a thing? Hardly!  And I truly believed that when he was first accused of the wrong doing, if he had acknowledged the wrong doing (right thing) , apologized to his God, his family, the young woman and her family and done so sincerely (in the right way) in a timely manner (at the right time), assuring us that he had learned a valuable life lesson and will not repeat such incidents, (for the right reasons) I believe that the late night talk show hosts would have taken him apart for about two weeks and then most of this nation would have said to Ken Starr and the Republican Party, “Sit down, stop finger pointing, stop spending our money and let’s get on with our lives.

An Argument for the Significance of The Leadership Test to Leadership and Management

If you are familiar with the work of Colonel John Boyd, you are familiar with the “OODA Loop.”  Boyd, an Air Force fighter pilot developed the “Loop” as a way of teaching fighter pilots to adjust quickly during fighter tactics.  The OODA is an acronym for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. Boyd understood that is the process the mind goes through during tactics and if he could get inside the OODA Loop of his opponent, he could defeat him.  The OODA Loop evolved into a whole new way of thinking strategically and tactically for the military.  It was the basis for the tactics that were used against Iraq in the 1992 war that so devastated a very capable and battle tried Iraqi Army. The impact of the OODA Loop on Tactics and strategy has led to some arguing that Boyd should be considered a modern day Sun Tzu. A further endorsement can be found in the entry way of the Marine Corps War College at Quantico. There you will find a bust of John Boyd, an Air Force Colonel.

Why do we mention the OODA Loop at this juncture?

I would hesitate to put The Leadership Test© on the same intellectual plane as Boyd’s OODA Loop, however, I would argue that THE LEADERSHIP TEST© IS TO LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT  WHAT THE OODA LOOP IS TO TACTICS AND STRATEGY.

The Leadership Test© is most likely too humble and too simplistic to be recognized as a “grand theory” of leadership.  However, it has a simplistic elegance coupled with an extensive domain of applicability to both daily personnel decisions as well as tactical and operational issues. That applicability derives from the fact that it contains core insights into the decision making dimensions of both the leader and manager role; insights that should not be ignored, dismissed or underutilized by critical thinking practitioners and incident commanders.    

So we would argue that management and leadership skill are not synonymous; they are distinctly different skill sets.  The manager functions in a very tangible world while the leader functions in a very intangible world. 

The manager’s world is easy to measure while the leader’s world, because of its intangible nature is very difficult to measure.  But because we are human beings we require some means of measurement.  If you can’t measure it, you can’t see it; apply it, work with it.  That is partially the purpose of the Leadership Test©.  And while it is not a perfect tool or the answer to leadership, it will improve the quality of our decision making in our work-a-day world.  That is its intended use. The Leadership Test© can be used to improve the quality of our decision making as both a leader and a manager.  By asking those four questions, the “Test”, will pull out of the leader their value and belief system as well as force them to look at procedures and the manner in which they will deal with their people.  It becomes a “Macro Tool” placed over the decision making process to improve the quality of the decision and also place the leader in a position to defend, with confidence, the decision they made, when second guessed which invariably they will be, especially in times of tense, uncertain, rapidly evolving crisis.