Competent Leaders Cannot Be Created When You’re Already In Crisis Mode

October 11, 2018 Updated: October 11, 2018

This is the fourth article in a five-part series on the “Special Operations Forces Truths.” The SOF Truths are five rules that are utilized as a guide for Special Operations units for strategic planning and vision. However, successful Special Operations soldiers also leverage these rules at an individual level in their own day-to-day activities.

Now, as more highly experienced and combat-tested SOF veterans are entering the business world than ever before, these five simple rules are being leveraged as force multipliers by leaders of cutting-edge industries to grow their people in a deliberate manner, on both a professional and a personal level.

If you or your organization is interested in becoming more agile, responsive, proactive, and effective than ever before, these are the Truths for you.

Take a deep breath. Clear your mind. Imagine your worst-case scenario has just become your reality.

The feared crisis, the one thing that kept you up late at night when your mind was playing ‘what if?’ has manifested, and you’re living right in the middle of it. You were blindsided by this development and you are ready to launch into full problem-solving mode.

You know you can’t do this alone; it’s time to call the team into action. There’s just one problem: You don’t have any competent leaders trained and primed to swing into action.

Do you really want to throw somebody into their first real leadership role and allow them to be tried by fire?

Well, it is time for a dose of reality: You can’t develop leaders proactively, after you already need them.

That’s just being reactive and it means you are behind the curve, trying to play catch up while your worst nightmares are already wrecking your waking life.

I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but all of your lessons learned are going to be coming post-mortem. You simply can’t create the leaders you need on the fly, while you are already in the middle of an emergency.

“Creation of competent, fully mission capable units takes time. Employment of fully capable special operations capability on short notice requires highly trained and constantly available SOF units in peacetime,” states the U.S. Special Operations Command.

In this article, we’re going to be discussing the implication of the fourth SOF Truth for both you and your organization: “Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur.”

If you aren’t already recruiting top-tier talent and implementing professional development programs, you need to go back and review the previous three rules we have covered, especially the third SOF Truth, “Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced.”

If you find yourself in a situation where you realize that the one thing missing from the equation is the right leadership, it is already too late to begin developing those leaders.

However, by keeping your team well trained and educated on the latest industry trends, your organization can focus on preventing emergencies rather than waiting to respond to them.

Train your people to take charge by giving them opportunities to lead. Encourage team members to learn the tasks of those one or two levels above them and offer rewards, such as promotions, to those who do take initiative when the opportunity presents itself.

In the military, it is no coincidence that the people in leadership roles frequently ended up being the first “killed” in training scenarios. Casualties were not a reason to scrub a mission, as long as there was somebody to pick up the mantle and lead.

Whether you’re the new guy leading the team in combat or you just got promoted to director at the office, you’re not going to learn how to lead in an emergency. Excellent leadership is trained for and mastered before it is needed.

Who do you have sitting on the bench? Who can start warming up the bullpen? Do you even have somebody that you can call up from the minors to fill the breach? All of your people need to be ready to lead at some level, no matter where they sit in your lineup. This is the only contingency plan that will allow your people to accomplish the mission, even when faced with crisis or catastrophe.

One of the most powerful lines in the U.S. Army Rangers creed is, “Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.” While the business world isn’t a literal do-or-die scenario, the important part to take away is the sense of purpose and urgency this type of motto inspires.

Crises will occur. You need to have an honest conversation with yourself and your leadership. Will your team members already have done their part to mitigate the impact of emergencies on your organization and your stakeholders?

You should expect your leaders to be prepared well ahead of your organization’s need. However, to be prepared, it is your responsibility to ensure they are trained, educated, and experienced. This is an ongoing, living process. You need to constantly revisit this truth and how your organization is meeting it.

You have to be training for the next war, not the last one you fought.
It takes an investment of time and money to build teams that are prepared for the contingencies in your industry. You can’t build them after the need for them has already arisen.

Knowledge and experience are gained over time. The wider the spectrum your organization, the longer the corresponding development times will be.
If this article is exposing you to new concepts, you need to find a way to make them a vital part of your organization tomorrow as if your competitors were implementing them yesterday.

Chris Erickson is a combat veteran and former Green Beret with extensive experience deployed to various locations across the world. He now works in the communications industry. Follow him on Twitter at @EricksonPrime.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.