Swartworth Leadership Development Seminar: The Judge Advocate General on What Leadership Means To Me

30 Aug

Post By David Hobbie, ILTA KM Blogmaster

Most of the reporting on the ILTA Conference 2012 has been made informally over on my Caselines blog and on Mary Abraham’s Above and Beyond KM blog as well. I thought to report on one session here, for a variety of reasons that will be evident.

Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman, the Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Army, spoke at ILTA on Tuesday August 26th as part of the Sharon Swartworth Leadership Development Seminar. He has a dry but effective speaking style, sprinkling personally relevant stories amongst more general points about leadership and communication.

Today his thoughts are down in Louisiana (his home state) and Hurricane Isaac.

He met Sharon Swartwood in 1991 when she was an administrative warrant officer, a “little ball of fire.” He greatly admired what she did for his office and his office’s systems, and he appreciates ILTA’s continued honoring of her memory.

The success of an organization depends on followers’ perceptions of the moral value of their leaders. Leadership has personal, organizational, and managerial dimensions.

Personal Leadership

How do you convey an organization’s challenges?

They have monthly publications, periodic speaking engagements, senior leader discussions, and other communications fora.

Effective communication begins with effective listening. He does a series of “iterative engagements” with key stakeholders and has a series of conversations. Listening, sleeping on the advice, and listening again will lead to better decisions when they have to be made.

His company commander gave him a practical lesson in communicating when, even after he had thrown a shrimp party for the commander, was called the next morning to attend to a vehicle maintenance task that had not been sufficiently addressed. In other words, Lt. Gen. Chipman’s commander let him know that personal appreciation for the shrimp and the party would not lower the organization’s standards.

Competence means you have studied to develop into a subject matter expert in your field. There should be increasing complexity in what you study as a professional. You have to stay fresh. He finds this particularly hard with respect to technology.

Scott Reid and his team are working to extend concepts, best practices, and tactics that make the JAG Corps more efficient and effective in the delivery of legal services through a JAG Corps enterprise social network (as he discussed at an ILTA panel on Monday, that I also participated in). Lt. Gen. Chipman understands that he has to understand KM in order to supervise those efforts effectively.

Competence involves “sharpening the saw”–staying fit, maintaining balance and family relationships, and the like.

Competence also requires having a personal philosophy of being a lifelong learner. Pass on inspiration you may have received from overcoming adversity to others who are or will be facing adversity.

Competence also requires self-reflection, the ability to laugh at yourself (his nickname is “the laughing general.”)

You can only have followers meet high standards when you set and meet high personal standards for yourself. Personal standards is “doing the right thing when no one is watching.”

There is no level at which “sacrificial leadership” does not apply. We want to maintain professional standards. Ambition is not a bad word. You should want to develop and seek out new challenges and opportunities.

Our current environment is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous (VUCA). To survive we need to be agile.

Toxic leadership is not a popularity issue. A toxic leader will look good to upper leadership but treat peers and subordinates dismally. Toxic leaders can succeed for a long time. It can be effective for a short mission but wears out organizations over the long haul.

Chipman quotes Secretary Panetta– “It is the character and the standards that each of you bring to the battle that makes us strong. We can often be better than our word, but we can never be better than our actions.”

Our own firms have standards. Are they well known? Are they perceived in the marketplace?

As a leader, it can be about wanting to contribute in the way that you do best. Lt. Gen. highlighted George Marshall as someone who could have been Supreme Allied Commander but recognized that his skills would be better used in organizing the U.S. war effort in World War II.

Organizational Leadership

“Mission first, people always.” You need to ensure that your organization is always responsive, effective, and efficient.

Management Leadership

Good management requires having systems to gauge how effective your management is. Address the “task, purpose, [and desired] endstate.”

Managers look to develop their younger staff, grow the next generation.

Lt. Gen. Chipman told a story about a girl cutting her finger in a Disney restaurant or resort. They rushed her to the clinic, and on the way heard her complaining about not being able to finish her dessert and they “made magic happen.” When she got back, six desserts were lined up in her hotel room. Corporate commitment to “make magic” is enabled by management system where every employee will fix problems.

The more you rise, the more you can look externally. His Lieutenant Colonels can manage the JAG Corps, he needs to think about what his organization needs to be in relation to the national security picture and the like.

There is a role for email, and there is a role for personal contact. You have to get face-to-face to be effective in coaching the next generation of leaders.

Vision is about communicating a clear direction based on values. Goals are waystations on the way to achieving a vision.

General Casey would ask at the start of every meeting, “What are we trying to do here, where are we trying to get today?” He was getting at meeting the larger vision of the organization, not getting lost in the short-term goals.

Taking care of people means listening, advising, praising when warranted and correcting when needed.

Feedback to people you are mentoring and coaching is critical for their advancement.

There are so many misread emails. People take offense from emails very easily. Hard discussions should take place face to face.

Loyalty entails debating issues before a decision is made and afterwards executing the decision “as if it were your own.”

Each of us is here because we enjoy a chance to work with others and make a difference in our organizations. Recognize that there is a need for leadership. Informal networks can be just as critical as formal networks and heirarchy. Effective leadership is when you help your network develop the next generation of leaders.

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