We have written before about what a singularly successful leader Field Marshal William Slim was. We discuss his leadership and some of his thoughts on commanders here and here. His Command Philosophy was simple. We think it also makes a hell of a lot of sense regardless of what sort of organization you might lead.
No Details, No paper and No regrets! Each of these self-admonishments serve to sharpen a leader’s exercise of that crucial skill – judgment.
No details! Don’t go about setting machine guns on different sides of bushes. That is done a damn sight better by a Platoon Leader.”
No Details! There is a very fine art to knowing the level of detail you should concern yourself with at any given level of responsibility. Pay too little attention and you are disengaged and ineffective; pay too much attention at too fine a level and you micromanage – doubling the work. Employ people you trust and trust them to do their jobs well. Don’t kill your subordinates’ confidence and productivity by getting involved where you have no business doing so. Be mindful of the appropriate level for your attention and strive to focus your efforts and attention there.
No Paper! Do not have people coming to you with huge files, telling you all about it. Make the man explain it; and if he cannot explain it, get somebody who can.”
No Paper! Leaders need to surround themselves with people who can communicate. No leader has time to read every report and digest every piece of information themselves. You must rely on others to distill information for you and communicate that which is pertinent to your decisions. This “No Paper” philosophy isn’t really about paper at all – it’s really about making sure your key subordinates can communicate. This precept is all the more relevant today and it could be restated in 2017 as “No PowerPoint.” SECDEF, Retired Marine General Jim Mattis famously claimed that “PowerPoint makes us stupid” and National Security Advisor Lt.Gen. H.R. McMaster banned its use in his headquarters in Iraq for similar reasons. Of course, PowerPoint doesn’t actually “make you stupid.” But, it can allow your thinking to become muddled and your message unclear. Practice the arts of verbal and written communication. Decide what really matters, get your message across and give your people the space and support to make things happen. As the original “Mad Man” George Louis said, “Think long. Write Short.”
No Regrets! What is the next problem? Get on to that. Do not sit in the corner weeping about what might have been done.”
No Regrets! Use your talent and judgment to do the best that you can. Having done so, do not become paralyzed with over-analysis when things don’t go exactly as you had envisioned. This is not an excuse for failing to conduct proper “After Action Reviews” or failing to examine lessons learned – this is an admonishment against indulging in that incapacitating and selfish habit of regret. Do not allow regret to rob you of your momentum.