Your success as a leader depends of how well you communicate the importance of teamwork.
In the military, soldiers work together because lives may be at stake. This means learning to rely on each other and taking advantage of every opportunity for the team to learn and grow.
High performing organizations understand this, and they consistently perform better than their competitors, because they understand and value teamwork.
NOTE: As you explore my scenario with the infantry, Army helicopter pilots, and Air Force pilots, consider the stovepipes that might exist within your organization.
Why is Your Leadership Culture So Important?
A life or death situation: Consider the importance of teamwork in the military and a goal of establishing a beachhead such as the Allied invasion and D-Day landing at Normandy, France during World War II.
Now, imagine another goal of smaller scale where an infantry unit of 200 men must attack an objective in a remote mountainous area. To get there, they must travel by helicopter and to increase safety, the operation must be done at night. Since it is a mountainous area, there isn’t much open space; five helicopters are the most that can safely fit into the landing zone (LZ) and there is only one LZ available.
Let’s say each helicopter can carry 10 passengers, so this means you will need 20 aircraft to insert these troops, but the infantry unit will have to be divided into four groups and they will arrive in the LZ in waves of 50 people each. The number of and complexity involved will require teamwork, coordination, and communication from every individual so that the responsibilities of every member is being met.
Teamwork Makes a Difference
To increase their chances of survival, the four groups of infantry soldiers must arrive as quickly as possible, one after the other. Upon arrival, they will need to clear the LZ and form a perimeter to provide security and allow the next group to land safely.
The helicopter unit will have to time their flights so that they land within 30 seconds of their scheduled arrival time, offload the troops and then clear the area for the next flight of aircraft. Finally, yet another organization who will provide close air support aircraft will provide the necessary firepower to protect the flights of helicopters during the ingress, landing, and egress phases, as well as the soldiers who are on the ground.
Again, complexity and numbers require coordination and teamwork.
Synchronizing Three Team Missions
Each infantry member must know how to safely enter and exit the helicopter, and once it lands, know exactly where to go and what to do when they get there.
Each helicopter crew will have primary and secondary responsibilities such as flight navigation, coordination with the infantry unit, or coordination with close air support from supporting aircraft.
The close air support aircraft need to be aware of the helicopter flight routes and the location of the infantry soldiers so that there are no friendly fire casualties. Survival depends upon the importance of teamwork. Three separate organizations must coordinate missions, synchronize their efforts, and work as a team.
Tom Crea is a leadership expert, decorated career Army Officer, and Blackhawk Helicopter pilot. Because of his proven skills, he was hand selected to run the Army’s leadership development program at two Boston colleges, where he and his team transformed college students into combat leaders.
Tom has a B.S. & M.C.S. in Computer Science and a M.A. in Political Science and loves coaching basketball and spending time with his wife and two boys.
Creating a Culture:
Tom’s proudest leadership moment came when his unit was called to war in Iraq after he had rotated out. His replacement was not able to perform, so members he developed stepped up to lead; they attribute their success to the leadership Tom instilled in each of them. Today, the Blackhawk leadership way.