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).

Monday, October 15, 2012

For The Love Of Money

Episode 22:  Major Fred C Dobbs

Hawkeye:   I think I have what just might be an idea.  Three of 
           the basic human emotions are greed, fear, and greed.
Trapper:    So?
Hawkeye:   Frank Burns is crazy about money. He married for money. He became a doctor for money. If there was money in dying, he’d throw himself under a truck in a minute.
Trapper:    All of which means what?
Hawkeye:  Remember that story Radar said about there being gold in Korea?...If [Frank] thought he could get rich staying here, he’d never leave.

Hawkeye and Trapper go too far with their pranks on Frank and Margaret, pushing them to request a transfer out of the 4077. Realising the impact of their constant harassment, they trick Frank into staying by appealing to his greed, planting fake gold around the camp.

The bible teaches us that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).  When the pursuit of money becomes our primary purpose and the bottom line of our leadership we are exposed to all types of risks and temptations.  Many leaders have been derailed by allowing the love of money to allure them away from fundamental values like integrity.  It is not that money itself is inherently evil, but the elevation of it to a place where it leads to a compromise of character.  I remember meeting a man at the Melbourne Remand Centre while Christmas Caroling one year whose love of money led to a gambling addiction that cost him his job, family and freedom.  With his head bowed low he lamented how he had thrown his life away because his love of money cost him everything of true value in his life.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Matter Of Perspective

Episode 21:  Sticky Wicket

Henry:    Look, you’re losing your perspective.  You’ve got your 
          guts in a knot because one patient has gone sour.  In 
          an outfit like this, that’s bad.
Hawkeye:  I don’t buy that.
Henry:    You don’t buy it because you’re dedicated.
Hawkeye:  Well, shouldn’t I be?
Henry:    Depends… on whether you’re dedicated to your patient 
          or your ego.

After insulting Frank Burns’ surgical skills in the OR, Hawkeye gets a patient that has complications causing him to become consumed by his inability to figure out the problem.  Colonel Blake challenges Hawkeye to get a bit perspective.

There are moments for every leader when something we organize or lead doesn’t turn out to plan, or when those we lead don’t respond to our leadership as we expect.  It is in these moments that I find myself doing a whole lot of self assessment to try and figure out where I’ve gone wrong.  If I’m not careful, my failures can easily distort my perspective of my successes. Perspective enables a leader to step back from their failures and to right-size their reality.  I have found it helpful to engage other trusted people in my circle of influence to broaden my perspective when I am consumed by a failure or problem.  More often than not, an alternative point of view reveals that things are not as bad or broken as first thought and provides shared wisdom to find effective solutions.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Who's In Charge?

Episode 20:  The Army-Navy Game

Frank:   Just a moment, Pierce. With Henry in that condition, 
         I’m in charge here.
Hawkeye: OK Frank, slip into your crown and robe and you tell us 
         what to do!
Frank:   All right. [hesitation]
Hawkeye: Well?
Frank:   Well, give me a minute.
Hawkeye: I’m not sure we’ve got one! They’re shelling our ears 
         off from both sides!

During a much anticipated Army-Navy football match, the 4077 are shelled and an unexploded bomb lands in the compound.  Enquires reveal that it is a CIA bomb and instructions are given to defuse it.  After the wrong wire is cut, it explodes revealing it was just a propaganda bomb.

We have all heard the saying “this will separate the men from the boys” when confronted with a challenging situation.  There is something about a challenge or a crisis that will either bring out the best or worst in a leader.  It is during challenging times that people are looking for a leader to step forward and take charge.  While consultation, collaboration and committees are the norms in organizational leadership, there are critical moments when a leader needs to have the confidence and clarity of mind to be able to take control of a situation.  Bill Hybels, quoting General Fred Franks, says, “In the heat of battle, the leader must be in the centre of the action…Every soldier deserves such competent command.”