My all time favourite TV series is M*A*S*H, a comedy/drama centred around the doctors and nurses of the 4077th M*A*S*H unit during the Korean War. The series was so popular that it outlasted the duration of the 3 year war, spanning 11 seasons and 251 episodes.

The strong characterisation and story lines presented thought provoking themes that provide an ideal platform for lessons on life and leadership. Whether you are a fan of the show or not, I'm sure you will connect with my leadership insights from M*A*S*H.

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES features bite-sized, candid insights that speak into the gritty space of leadership through the eyes of a fellow leader seeking to "lead with all diligence" (Romans 12:8).

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Does The End Justify The Means?

Episode 19:  The Long John Flap

Klinger:   Father, over here.  I would like to ask your advice on a spiritual matter.
Father:     Why certainly.
Klinger:   If you need something – I mean, if you’re really cold 
or something – it wouldn’t be a mortal
sin to steal from somebody who was kind of a rotten 
person anyway?  Would it?
Father:    Have you stolen something?
Klinger:   These (passes out from hiding a pair of long johns)
Father:    Oh, my.  Aren’t they nice. Whoever you took these from  must be very cold now.
Klinger:    Father, if I give them back, the certain person I took them from would like to have me killed.  I’ve really been trying to avoid that lately.

The 4077 are experiencing a cold snap.  Hawkeye receives a pair of long johns from home, which become a coveted item in camp and are traded among the personnel, until they are stolen and returned to Colonel Blake to try and find the original owner.

One of the complications of leading in a world of relative morality and blurry boundaries is how easy it is to allow the end to justify the means.  These are those occasions when unethical or even illegal actions are engaged by organizations to achieve the desired outcomes, at whatever cost.   As leaders, our perception of the greater good should never compromise the truth of what actually is good.  Without clear absolutes, boundaries or vision our core values and integrity are at risk of becoming the casualty of morally and ethically questionable methods.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beware Of Impostors

Episode 18:  Dear Dad…Again

Hawkeye:      Be off the base in 24 hours, and never…repeat: 
              never touch a patient again without a licence.   
              And contact me the minute you get one.  You’re a 
              damn good surgeon.
Capt Casey:   On the level?
Hawkeye:     Next to you, Frank Burns is an alterations lady.  I 
             gotta ask you one question.
Capt Casey:  “Why?”  Well, I’ve passed myself off as a teacher, 
             a lawyer, an engineer.  I can do it all.  I just    
             never had the patience to go through it by the 
             numbers.  I guess I never had the drive to get 
             the diploma, the permit, whatever.
Hawkeye:     Try it once.  You’ll be great Casey.

Hawkeye writes another letter home to his dad describing the boredom experience during the lull in the war.  A new doctor arrives in camp that turns out to be an impostor, with a history of passing himself off as a doctor, teacher, engineer, lawyer and leaves the 4077 as a chaplain.

In the Bible the Apostle Paul warns Timothy to beware of imposters who are deceiving and being deceived and urges him to continue in what he has become convinced of from sound teachers (2 Timothy 3:13-14).  We live in a world that promotes confusing and conflicting ideologies about life and leadership.  As leaders we must learn how to discern truth and discover principles that are applicable to those we lead.  We must also be able to test what we are being taught and be careful not to blindly follow popular opinion or be bound by political correctness.  I have found reading widely and seeking wisdom from trusted leaders helps me to develop a discerning mind.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Friendly Fire

Episode 17:  Sometimes You Hear The Bullet

Hawkeye:    “You never hear the bullet.”  Is that a book?
Tommy:     Yeah, it’s about the war.  And it’s being written by a soldier, not a correspondent.
How can I explain it to you?  Ok, there’s always that big blond kid in all those war movies. The one that should never die but always does.
Hawkeye:    Yeah, and they bring him back to life in the next movie.
Tommy:     Right.  You always hear this big, loud ricochet just before he gets killed.  Well, that’s not the way it really happens.  There was a young blonde kid in our outfit.  One day I looked over and half of him was gone.  And you know what he said?  He said, “I never heard no bullet.”  That’s why that book is called what it’s called.

Hawkeye’s friend Tommy makes a surprise visit to the 4077 and shares his idea about a book he is writing based on his experience in combat.  Later, he returns to camp injured and rethinks the title of his book, because unlike his original title, he heard the bullet that hit him coming.

One of the harsh realities of leadership is that leaders come under fire from those they lead, and often don’t hear or see it coming!  This is most painful when it comes from people you have invested enormous amounts of time and energy into their personal and professional lives.  I find it easier to deal with when I see it coming, as I understand that conflict is an unavoidable part of leadership. But it is the unsuspecting attacks from unsuspecting people that has the biggest impact on me.  I have learnt that to guard my heart against friendly fire I need to depersonalise the attack and remember that hurting people hurt people.  It is rarely about me, and when it is I need to have the humility to deal with my part in the issue. When it is not, I need to have enough empathy to look beyond the attack and respond to the cause of the pain driving the behaviour.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Positional Leadership

Episode 16:  The Ringbanger

Hawkeye:    We got us a real “ring banger” here.
Trapper:   A “what banger”?
Hawkeye:   Didn’t you see the way he kept banging his ring on 
           the chair?
Trapper:   Yeah.
Hawkeye:   A little reminder that he’s a quarterback and we’re 
           just the water boys.
Trapper:   I got a feeling he wouldn’t be so tall if he weren’t 
           standing on so many bodies.

An over zealous colonel comes to camp injured, exerting his authority and eagerness to return to the front line to kill more of the enemy.  Hawkeye and Trapper try and prevent him from returning to battle by convincing him he was suffering from ‘battle fatigue.’

There are many different styles of leadership; from task-oriented to people-focused, bureaucratic to servant, autocratic to participative, and many others in-between.  Regardless of the style or situation, it is commonly agreed that leadership is more about influence than position.  Position asserts the rights of a leader, whereas influence accents the responsibilities of a leader.  Position is self driven, influence is others driven. Position exerts power over others, influence empowers others. While positional leadership is a reality in most organizations, leaders have a choice about how they use their position.  In his book, The 360 Degree Leader, John Maxwell, who teaches that “leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less,” defines the relationship between position and influence by stating, “Influencing others is a matter of disposition, not position.”