Leadership Philosophy and Expectations of LeadersCommentary by Robert T. Hastings

Next month I will pass the Regimental colors to a new leader for the organization I have had the honor and privilege of commanding for the past three years.  As I reflect upon my personal learning during this time and focus on my next duty assignment, I re-read the command philosophy letter I published when I first joined the unit.   I still think it’s a pretty good framework for leaders of both military and non-military units alike.   I don’t take credit for all of this as original work; I borrowed liberally from other leaders I have known and worked for over the past 30 years.

Subject:  Leadership Philosophy and Expectations of Leaders

Command is a privilege and it is an honor for me to join you as commander of the 19th Regiment.  The most important and sacred responsibility entrusted to an officer or noncommissioned officer is the privilege of leading others in execution of an important mission.  We must never forget that others depend upon us, they look to us for guidance and to set the example, and when we ask them to go in harm’s way they and their families expect us to lead them back home safely.

This memorandum outlines my leadership philosophy and expectations of you, the leaders of this Regiment.

I define my leadership philosophy simply as People First: Mission Always.

I developed this philosophy as I advanced through several levels of responsibility within the Army, from platoon to regiment and across a wide range of missions.  This philosophy recognizes that the most valuable and important resource a leader has to accomplish the mission are people.  I believe that well-trained, highly-motivated and performance-oriented people provided with clear guidance and direction can accomplish any mission and will exceed our expectations every time. People first.

But the reason any organization exists is to accomplish a mission.  If we fail to accomplish our mission then nothing else matters; nothing.  I believe a leader’s principle focus must always be on successful execution of the mission. Mission always.

Obviously people and mission are inextricably linked; you cannot succeed in one without the other.  People First: Mission Always has provided me a sense of balance with two equal priorities that are mutually supportive.  We must excel at both to excel as an organization.

We are not a combat organization, but I do believe deeply in the Warrior Ethos and that it is equally applicable to the culture we must build within this Regiment to be successful.

The Warrior Ethos is:
•I will always place the mission first.
•I will never accept defeat.
•I will never quit.
•I will never leave a fallen comrade.

 I expect each of you to learn it, live it and teach it.

These are my expectations of you as leaders in this Regiment:
1.Communicate: Good communication is the hallmark of a great leader.  Whether it comes easy for you or not, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team knows what is expected of them at all times.  Our mission will take us into the unknown, and you and your teams will be asked at times to operate in ambiguous and chaotic conditions.  I expect leaders to use the troop leading procedures to create and communicate well-developed plans and orders, and to provide clear guidance and direction.   

2.Build trust & teamwork: Trust is earned not given, through deeds not words.  It extends laterally and vertically, both ways.  Trust is inherent in the strength of our collective character and is an essential element of leadership and successful mission execution.  I must trust you, you must trust your troops, and they must trust one another and the entire leadership team.  Trust is the glue that bonds individuals into a team and once lost is never regained.  Military operations are a team sport, or more accurately, a ‘team of teams’ sport.  I am not impressed by high-performing individuals; we need high-performing teams.

3.Provide clarity through intent: “Commander’s intent” might be the most important leadership tactic ever developed.  Long practiced in the Army, it is now taught at premier leadership schools and universities to include the Harvard Business School.  Commander’s intent enables action and initiative.  When your subordinates know how you define success, it allows them to think on their feet, to achieve mission success in light of changing situations, and to focus on achieving an end-state which everyone understands.

4.Take prudent risks: Our mission is high risk.  I expect leaders to accept prudent risk when necessary; make every effort to assess, mitigate and minimize risks; and ensure that risk decisions are made at the appropriate levels.  As a leader I expect you to practice risk assessment continually so that you can be confidently aggressive in your mission execution without gambling with the safety of our troopers.  Safety must always remain at the forefront of our minds.

5.Lead in difficult situations: This is where you earn your stripes.  As a leader you must be a role model for others.  You are viewed as the example and must maintain standards and provide examples of effective behaviors.  When leaders model the organization’s values, they provide tangible evidence of desired behaviors and reinforce verbal guidance by demonstrating commitment and action.  I expect you to be timely and decisive in your decisions especially when the going gets tough.  If you don’t lead your team someone else will.

6.Perform under stress: Regardless of how difficult or stressful the situation may become, you must perform.  Your subordinates and peers will watch your every move to see if you can handle the stress.  Self-confident leaders breed self-confident troops.  It is important that they are confident that when you take them into danger you will perform well and will lead them back to safety.  They will not follow you if they do not have confidence in you.

7.Grow future leaders: I believe leaders don’t occur naturally, at least not in the quantity we need.  Leaders are grown and developed.  A large part of how I evaluate you as a leader is the way you develop your subordinates.  Every member of this Regiment is a leader in training for the next level of responsibility.  It is our job as leaders to bring the next generation along and develop those that will replace us.  We do this through training, coaching and mentoring, and by providing challenging opportunities to grow and develop.

8.Exhibit unimpeachable integrity and character: Integrity is non-negotiable – I will not tolerate breaches.  Effective leaders are truthful in both word and deed.  I expect leaders to be morally and ethically upright and to be positive role-models at all times.

9.Adapt, innovate, and take the initiative: As a leader, I expect you to be a self-starter, to act when there are no clear orders, and to adapt when the situation changes or the plan falls apart – because it will!

10.Drive standards, discipline, and fitness: Discipline is not merely the obedience of orders; it is adherence to standards, the pursuit of excellence, and development of a collective will in a team that enables mission success.  I expect leaders to embrace the high standards of our organization for yourselves and your teams, and to develop a culture of discipline that builds cohesion and self-confidence among the troops.  Finally, I expect leaders to be physically and emotionally fit to lead.  Go to the Army website and read about the five Dimensions of Strength.

In summary, let me say how honored and proud I am to be serving with you.  This Regiment has a solid reputation, directly attributable to the hard work of each of you.  Together we’ll make it better.  The leaders and citizens of Texas depend on us.  Our missions demand confident leaders, trained and ready troopers, and an aggressive, determined spirit.  You have proven time and again that you can exceed every expectation.

I look forward to serving with you and meeting the challenges ahead.