As a leader, I have lived on the creative end of the military spectrum and my most recent (and last) tour in the Navy positioned me on the more disciplined end of the creative spectrum. I have long subscribed to the philosophy that a leader must be the leader the team needs and not necessarily the leader we want to be. Over the course of my career, I have done just that: tailored my approach to the needs of the team. Such a philosophy has made some jobs far more enjoyable than others and I will freely admit that being the leader my most recent team needed was the least fun I have had in my career to date. Generally speaking, I prefer inspiring the rigid to embrace creativity more than I do reeling in the reckless.

Though I have had reason to tweak my methods to help each of the teams take the next steps in their respective evolution, there are certain tools within the leadership toolbox that remained constant. As my career continues to evolve and I find myself spending more of my time outside of uniformed service, I am increasingly reminded of the importance of a leader’s role as Connector. In fact, I would go as far as to say that a leader who is not a connector is ineffective at best, while those who embrace the role amaze me with the extent of their reach and the amplification of the outcomes they enable.

A leader must…

…connect the right people. Sometimes the right people are diverse in their thinking. Sometimes the right people are already aligned in their execution. In order for a leader to connect people, he must care enough to connect with people, be able to see life through their eyes, and leverage their uniqueness at the optimal time.

…connect ideas with opportunity. Many leaders are short-sighted by demanding that their team not bring them problems without solutions. What they fail to realize is that many of us are able to identify an area of improvement but may not have the expertise or network to develop the solution. Likewise, there are many people in this world busy developing capability that solve problems we aren’t even aware exist (e.g., we didn’t know we needed smartphones…now look at all of the problems they solve).

…connect tactical execution to the desired strategic. As individual contributors to a team, I may not know how the tasks I execute today enable the person next to me to deliver an outcome tomorrow. Sometimes a leader is able to help others see how things are connected and sometimes he merely orchestrates the execution so that they responsibly connect. Regardless, it is the ultimate connection that matters.

As I look back at my uniformed career, I can freely admit that I am where I am today because I cared enough to connect. As I look to the future, I remain committed to doing more of the same. I love helping others see what I see and then cheer them on as they help me see far more than I originally saw on my own.

  • How are you connecting teammates?
  • How are you connecting ideas with opportunity?
  • How are you connecting activities, actions, and outcomes?