What Are The Eleven Shields Of The Leadership Phalanx?
First, what is a Phalanx?
Simply put, a Phalanx is a tight knit group working in close formation to achieve great results. You’ve likely seen the formation portrayed in its historical context. It was the formation of choice of the Greeks and the Spartans who used it at Thermopylae to slow down the advance of the Persian army. Modernly, you see riot police use it to control much larger crowds.
Our shields work the same way. By using them together they reinforce one another and create a nearly impenetrable wall that will make you and your organization a force to be reckoned with!
So, what are The Shields of The Phalanx?
Shield 1 - You Are Always On Display
This Shield is simple, everything you do is being watched. The words you say, the jokes you tell, the actions you take are all being observed by everyone around you. You can't control it or how they interpret it. All you can do is be aware it is happening and make a conscious and intentional effort to set the best examples possible.
Shield 2 - Introspection & Improvement
Introspection is one of the hardest things a human being can attempt. Why? Because nobody can lie to you as easily as you can lie to yourself. You have to make a sincere and honest effort to self examine. If you try and find nothing wrong then you did it wrong. Try again.
The next step is to take the information you get from your introspection and make improvements. You need both of these elements. Introspection does no good without improvement and you can't improve unless you know what areas need work.
Shield 3 - Build Relationships and Look Out For Your People
Leadership is a relationship. Pure and simple. If you don't put time in building relationships with your team you are doomed to failure. As you build those relationships be sure to listen for the things that really matter to your teammates. You never know when this information will be critical and can be used to look out for the good of your team. Team's with leaders who have their best interests in mind are more successful.
Shield 4 - Be Rational and Decisive
This Shield requires a balancing act. You have to make a timely decision but it has to be based in rational thought. You can't shoot from the hip and be wrong but you also can't take forever and be right. You have to find the equilibrium point between investing enough time in thought and discussion, and taking action.
Shield 5 - Be a Power Broker, Knowledge is power
Insecure people in leadership positions love to horde power around them. It lessons their insecurity and gives them comfort. Don't be that person. Great leaders are power brokers. They want their teams to be empowered as much as possible to make necessary decisions for success. This means sharing knowledge with them. The more they know the better they perform, the more successful the team is, and the less likely false knowledge is to create an environment of mistrust and backstabbing.
Shield 6 - Train how you want to perform
Plain and simple, you perform how you train so train how you want to perform. If you slack off in training you will slack off in performance. If you don't take training seriously you won't take reality seriously. If you train to the highest standard and still expect more you will perform to the highest standard and still expect more. The ball is in your court.
Shield 7 - Play to your team's strengths
Every team has strengths and weaknesses. It is inevitable. No one team can do everything. So, it is critical for you to know what your team's strengths are and play to them. You want to set your team up for success. Yes, challenge them so they grow but don't set them up to fail.
Shield 8 - Define success, empower team members, achieve results
Too many times micro-management is seen as strong leadership. Wrong! Strong leaders simply define what success looks like, give their teams the power to do what is necessary (within an ethical realm), and set out to achieve results alongside their team. If you do this you will often be amazed at the final outcome and how far past the initial definitions of success the results are.
Shield 9 - Create an environment of success
This Shield is all about culture. Do you have an environment where team members are ready to take on responsibility or are the afraid to try and fail? Do you have an environment where "I" and "my" are prevalent or are "we" and "our" used more often? Do you have an environment where failure is not tolerated or one where failure is used as a learning aid for future success? The choice and what you create is yours. But, if you want success, I'd suggest you foster responsibility, "we" and "our" language, and use failures to build future success.
Shield 10 - Look for opportunities and own their outcomes
Opportunities are everywhere. They all have certain risks and rewards. What is important is that, once you go for an opportunity you ultimately own the outcome, good or bad. What is even more important is that, if the results are good, you share the win with the entire team. They deserve to be recognized as much as you do.
If the results are bad then you own all of that. You see, teams succeed but leaders fail. If the team experiences failure it is because you, as the leader, missed something. You misjudged the team's capabilities, maybe even a single team-member's capability. You failed to sufficiently define success. You failed to provide adequate resources. There could be a multitude of reasons why but they all point to you failing as the leader. The good news is you want to own that failure. It builds trust with your team and with leadership above you. If you start making excuses and throwing people under the bus you look weak and untrustworthy.
Shield 11 - Stay technically and tactically relevant
Leaders don't have to be field experts but they do have to be able to hold their own in conversations where decisions are being made. If they can't they look weak and out of touch. If they can they look confident and in control. Just because you are in a leadership position doesn't mean you can slack off and let your skills get dull. If you do, you will not be leading anything for long. Stay technically and tactically relevant!
These shields work together to form a strong leader with strong teams that achieve great results. You can ignore one or more but you are only weakening yourself and your team. Apply them all, all the time. If you do you will be the type of leader you would want to follow and that means your team will want to follow you as well. Are they easy to implement? Nope. But that is part of the burden of command, doing the difficult things for the good of the team. The effort is very much worth the reward.