Giving Tree leadership – a new competency? This week’s PricewaterhouseCoopers blog by Augusto Giacoman was titled Caring Leadership. In the article, Mr. Giacoman told the personal story of a leadership lesson presented to a command staff in Iraq by a sergeant major of the 75th Ranger Regiment. The author’s story:
“In an Army infantry unit packed with tough combat veterans, are sergeant major was the toughest. Built like a slab of concrete, he had completed multiple deployments with the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. As officers, my colleagues and I technically I ranked him. But if he had told us to jump, we would not have hesitated to ask how high – and how soft we should land. The most impressive thing about the stuff later is how much he cared. When he first came to our battalion, he gathered all the officers together for leadership development session. Then he played a video of the children’s classic story The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. The Giving Tree describes an enduring relationship of unconditional and self-sacrificing love between a tree and a little boy. In the silence after the video ended, he uttered a simple command before dismissing cost: ‘be the giving tree for your soldiers’”.
The author concluded “Leaders should combine caring with some level of assertiveness and independence. Although the sergeant major cared about his soldiers, he still put them through tough training. Yes, he made us watch a video about Then Giving Tree. But when a soldier required discipline the sergeant didn’t hesitate to mete it out swiftly.”
The most effective leaders, in military or business, make heart-to-heart connections. In Iraq the soldiers knew first that the sergeant major had a heart for them by risking sharing a children’s story. Only then are they willing to transfer that caring leadership to their units. The key: assertiveness to mission and love of the troops ( employees ).