Hat Tip: Leadership Lessons from 1955

Last Updated Nov 11, 2008 8:47 AM EST

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An experienced asset manager today observed that some of the latent aggression exhibited by young men in City jobs might have found a better outlet in National service, scrapped in the UK in 1960. Now they channel that energy into aggressive deal-making, with sometimes detrimental results. OK, assuming he did his turn in the French military, it didn't seem to stop Societe Generale fraudster Jerome Kerviel from getting carried away. But the point is that self-management, teamwork and leadership are disciplines traditionally associated with military training.
Not without reason, as Stefan Stern's Remembrance Day commentary today demonstrates. He's unearthed some suprisingly enduring notes on officer training, courtesy of a distinguished business leader's National Service days.

The advice on "man" management not only stands up today, but stands out for its simplicity (old-fashioned terminology notwithstanding). Take the definition of leadership: "the art of influencing a body of people to follow a certain course of action" by "controlling them, directing them and getting the best out of them."

Here are some other useful highlights from the notes:

  • "Being a leader is a big job, a fine job and a thoroughly worthwhile job. See that you become a leader in the real and best sense of the word."
  • "The business of man management takes time and it requires the taking of infinite trouble.... Your men are your material; you must know all about them. You must give each one individual study and be prepared to make an individual approach to each. You must be something of a psychologist."
  • Leaders should put team members' interests first, "be their champion but also their chief critic", "be yourself and don't act a part" and "be self-critical".
  • "The leader must have his heart in the job and be cheerful and enthusiastic, even when conditions are difficult and the task unpleasant."
  • Leaders need to commit to decisions, however unpopular they may be.
  • They need to be flexible -- "orders must be constantly renewed and once they become inapplicable or out of date, they must be abolished."
  • Your work will never be done, according to the notes: "You will always have something more to learn, so be prepared to profit by experience."
(Image: Polari, CC2.0)