The fray is where the real work takes place. The fray is where action happens. The fray is the part of the organization that the Doers call home. Early in my career I operated in the fray and enjoyed it immensely. At times I thrived in it and at times I struggled with it, but I always took great pride in being a part of it. At this point in my career, I acknowledge that it has been more than a few years since I operated in the fray. There are few who are able to stay in the fray for their entire career no matter how much they might try. For most of us there comes a time that promotion mandates that we transition to roles that call on us to orchestrate the fray.

Commanding Officers don’t operate in the fray, they orchestrate it. Executive Assistants often feel as though they are in the fray, but those who are executing effectively quickly realize that their role is to orchestrate the real doing. I have spent five of my last seven years bouncing between those two roles. I’ve enjoyed it immensely and feel pretty good about my abilities to orchestrate. But a funny thing happened to me while evolving into an orchestrator. My abilities to operate in the fray diminished greatly. I know this because I am back in the fray and I am struggling.

The team I am on now is one where the fray consumes most of us. And quite honestly, it has consumed me. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, for it is where we are as a team…a start-up in the truest sense. But as with any team, orchestration matters. Getting my bearings continues to take me longer than I care to admit and I certainly have struggled over the last five weeks, most of the time feeling as though I am caught in an undertow just trying not to drown. And being the senior military member on the team I feel two things. One is a need to live up to the expectations my teammates have for me and the other is to help organize the fray. For there is no orchestration without organization.

I’ve always believed that the primary duty of the team leader is to be the leader the team needs and not necessarily the leader you want to be. Once again, I find myself distinguishing between the two, for I am fairly confident that being the leader I want to be isn’t in the best interest of this team…at least not yet. This environment is like no other in which I have served, this mission is like no other I have supported, and this team is like no other with whom I have lead. Admittedly, up until last week I was questioning my ability to even understand what type of leader this team needed, let alone be that leader. I was not pleased with my pace of integration within the team. Honest talks about my concerns, my self-acknowledged shortcomings, and my observations about the team with a new addition to my Personal Board of Directors, a longtime teammate, and my wife continue to be instrumental in getting me over the hump, or one might say, getting my mojo back.

I don’t know that I will ever feel as comfortable in the fray as I once did and quite honestly, that is no longer a priority of mine. Organizing the fray is the priority. Orchestrating the fray is my mandate. Yes, organizing and orchestrating the very fray in which one is operating is a challenge, especially when that undertow keeps grabbing you. But it’s a challenge I intend to rise to. And most certainly a challenge I am not alone in addressing.

  • Are you more comfortable operating within, organizing, or orchestrating the fray?
  • How do you personally transition between the three?
  • Who do you lean on when the undertow is getting the best of you?