J.R. McGee is the CEO of X-Stream Leadership Group. His company focuses on leadership, business process improvement and quality management. His company focuses on leadership, business process improvement and quality management.
McGee has 33 years of experience in the world of counter-terrorism including training Navy Seals, Delta Force, SPAWAR operators and fighter pilots. When asked to translate those leadership experiences into leadership lessons that would benefit the business leaders in GPSEG, I was surprised when he said that what he primarily learned about leadership comes not from applying military principles to civilian life but from just dealing with people.
Striving for Excellence
“If people want to do something, they will find a way to do it. If they don’t want to do it, they’ll find an excuse.” He added that “his entire life has taught him to be more excited about what we can become than to be proud of who we are.”
When assessing whether an individual has the potential to be a great leader, he looks for four characteristics: drive, passion, discipline and an obsessive curiosity about life.
These characteristics then intertwine into a leader who influences or motivates others to achieve what they didn’t know they could achieve. True leadership doesn’t come from title or position but from actions-- the “exercise of influence in the absence of authority.”
Attaining What Seems Unattainable
One of McGee’s core principles for leading great teams is to have the team bond around attaining what the team thought were unattainable objectives. Perceptions are managed as the whole team shares adversity, is stretched and challenged, feels a sense of urgency, and resolves a problem that no one person could do alone. The bonded team winds up saying: How could we have done this? Then they hunger for more. The leader helps people become the best they can be and have fun along the way. It’s less about micromanagement and more on building respect among team members so they can achieve what they are capable of doing.
This type of leader enables culture change to be driven from the bottom up. For example, in a sales environment, the emphasis is on what the sales professional can do within their own sphere of influence. The leader helps the sales team move beyond immediate transactions and see what they can create for others--the value is in helping the customer succeed and thrive. “As long as it’s legal, moral and ethical” the customer’s success is the ultimate goal.
McGee concluded by saying, “Seek the best people, tell them what you want, find ways to support them, trust them and the results will be achieved—most likely results that no one initially thought were possible.”
In Leadership Insights, Suzanne F. Kaplan, President of Talent Balance and GPSEG colleague, interviews and writes about outstanding leaders to share their stories and experiences. Although we've all probably read some of the thousands of publications on leadership, it's the personal insights that Suzanne will be capturing for our benefit.
We welcome your comments and suggestions of other CEOs and leaders, including those not well known to GPSEG, whom you would like to see featured in future columns.