Lead with the best version of yourself.

Are You an Electable Leader?

By Sam Redding

If your unit voted, would you be the leader?

Given the recent election, I have been thinking about this a lot lately. What if organizations could vote to decide who is in charge? Let me preface this by saying, this post is not a call for change, but more of a thought experiment; a way to see ourselves. If the people in your organization could vote for their leader, would you make the cut?

Now, the rules: (1) no voting for someone outside the organization, (2) no promoting or demoting, and finally, (3) everyone’s vote is counted equal.

When I’m in a leadership position, I often ponder my qualifications for being in charge. Is it rank, experience, leadership style, empathy, or decision making? Am I doing what the organization needs or what I am best at? Am I only in charge because of the rank insignia on my chest or do I have some qualities and experience that give me a better vantage point to lead? These questions cause self-reflection, and in some cases, adjustments in my behavior.

Conversely, if I was in a subordinate position, would others vote to put me in charge? Am I doing the things that make the organization successful? Am I seen as a compassionate member of the team who places the success of the organization as a priority? Do my peers see me as value added? Questions like these should drive us to think about our contributions, others perceptions of us, and our role in the organization.

Being self-aware is important. Like a 3D image that requires multiple camera angles, we also need multiple perspectives to achieve the holistic, accurate picture needed to convert awareness into improvement. For  deeper self-awareness, asking questions like these, and being honest with ourselves, gives us a slightly different perspective.

So ask yourself, if there was a ballot call today to select your organization’s leader, how would you fare?

About the Author:

LTC Sam Redding is an active duty Army Officer. Since joining the Army in the early 1990’s, he has been an infantryman, student of the Mandarin Chinese language, helicopter pilot, leader, follower, and half-decent maker of the slides. He holds degrees from Campbell University and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.

4 thoughts on “Are You an Electable Leader?”

  1. LTC Redding,

    First, thank you for an interesting thought experiment.

    As a riposte, I ask why green belts don’t sit as judges for a black belt grading. Democracy is awesome, I’m not contesting that, but the public will always be influenced by a degree of ignorance – can the generalists ever be the best panel to select a specialist?

    Leadership is a fickle art. In theory, the leader should be the best of those he/she leads. That doesn’t mean the fastest runner or the best marksman, but the best soldier in aggregate. Sometimes, that’s as simple as just being willing to assume the mantle. Other times, it’s a bloody fight to be king of the mountain. Regardless, if one depends on those one would lead to determine how they’re led, who’s actually driving the bus?

  2. All valid points. Not a call for change for those reasons. We should strive to obtain multiple perspectives. My hope is that this thought experiment provides a gateway to that journey.

  3. I like that idea (and the discussion from 22-27 Feb) a lot. I just came out of Garrison Command (unelected mayor) in the middle of a pandemic and frequently found myself balancing the mission, requirements, or resources with public demand and opinion. I may not have been worried about a reelection, but some positions require you to have a good sense of how your decisions impact beyond the organization. For organizations with supporting role, a similar question is whether or not your supported units would hire you or be your client if given a choice. It is healthy to know that you are in charge for a reason (“leadership, not liker-ship” as it is said). It is also healthy to wonder how well you are doing from the perspective of those you lead and serve. Get better every day!


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