This approach gave Jackson a visceral understanding of the meaning of war. As he explained, “War means fighting. The business of the soldier is to fight. Armies are not called out to dig trenches, to throw up breastworks, to live in camps, but to find the enemy and strike him; to invade his country, and do him all possible damage in the shortest possible time.” This commitment to results, in turn, made him an inspiration to his troops, who trusted him, literally, with their lives.
Few executives today inspire their followers that way. The well-meaning leader who considers management an art equally applicable across any industry, be it aircraft engines or banking, can never match the leader who truly understands the business at hand and continually invests the time to learn more about it.
Given the unpopularity of observation, it’s no wonder that many employees view executives as Dilbert cartoon characters: clueless autocrats anxious to implement the next management fad as a “strategic initiative.” And in such an environment, the odds of success probably match those of a fad diet. Embracing firsthand observation as an integral part of your personal management style and embedding it in a company’s culture can break the fad cycle. It connects everyone to reality and forces a collaborative, problem-solving mind-set that can produce enduring results rather than just temporary improvement.
Reprint No. 07301
Tim Laseter (firstname.lastname@example.org) serves on the faculty of the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Balanced Sourcing (Jossey-Bass, 1998) and coauthor, with Ron Kerber, of Strategic Product Creation (McGraw-Hill, 2006). Formerly a vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton, he has more than 20 years of experience in operations strategy.
Larry Laseter (Larry@LarryLaseter.com) is an independent consultant and entrepreneur. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the Harvard Business School, he has held executive positions at FPL Group, MyHomeKey.com, and The Home Depot. He has more than two decades of experience helping service businesses grow through sales, marketing, acquisitions, and improved operations.