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).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Second In Charge

Episode 51:  Officer Of The Day

Radar:      Company…order arms!  Company’s arms are ordered, sir.
Frank:    Now then, during Colonel Blake’s absence, I will act in his capacity.  So, if there are any problems, you may bring them to me or to our fine adjutant here, Major Houlihan.  Talking to the major is the same as talking to me since we are intimate with each other at all times.

In Henry Blake’s absence, Frank is acting Commanding Officer and Hawkeye is rostered as Officer of the Day.  During their temporary command, Colonel Flagg from Army Intelligence brings in a prisoner for treatment and Klinger is caught several times trying a number of unsuccessful attempts at desertion.

I learned a valuable lesson a number of years ago while catching up with our leadership team upon my return from holidays.   A significant issue arose in my absence that required immediate attention and a decision was made that caused unintended consequences.  It would have been easy to criticize the decision, but I realized in the moment that it was more important for me and the team to affirm the process leading to the decision and their willingness to lead in my absence.  When authority is delegated it needs to be backed if we are serious about empowering leaders, because “Leadership is not just what happens when you’re there; it’s what happens when you’re not there” (Ken Blanchard).  Affirming leaders when you are present and empowering leaders when you are absent expands your leadership influence, whether you are there or not.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Command Decisions

Episode 50:  Rainbow Bridge

Colonel Blake:   Well, I’m afraid this is what you call your 
                 command decision.  It’s “lonely at the top” time.  
                 Strictly something for your leader. 
Hawkeye:         Well, Henry?
Colonel Blake:   Oh Golly.  Whatever you people decide is fine with 

The Chinese send the 4077 a message to offer a prisoner exchange as they are unable to adequately treat the captured US casualties.  Colonel Blake calls together the officers to discuss the risks involved in the exchange and calls on volunteers to meet the enemy in their territory.

Leading an organisation into unknown territory always involves an element of risk and demands courageous leadership to make the call to lead where others fear to go.  These sorts of tough decisions cannot be avoided, rarely should be delegated and ought never to be abdicated.  While there are tough decisions that require the collective wisdom of other leaders or a committee to determine the correct course of action, more often than not, what makes decisions tough is not determining what needs to be done but having the courage to do it!  Leadership expert Peter Drucker writes, “Just because something is difficult, disagreeable, or frightening there is no reason for not doing it if it is right.”  From that crucial conversation to a corporate contract, the knowledge of what is the right thing to do can’t be compromised by the degree of risk or reservation by those we lead.  Command decisions require uncompromising character and courage from those entrusted with the responsibility to lead.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Keeping Mobile

Episode 49:  The General Flipped At Dawn

General:       We’re gonna have to move your unit closer to the 
               front Colonel
Colonel Blake: You mean where the guys are fighting Sir?
General:       “You do your best business on Main Street.” -   
               General Cornwallis
Trapper:       It’s not all that pleasant being on the 50-yard 
               line, General.
Colonel Blake: It’s very dangerous.
General:       Danger is our business.  Get your second in command 
               and we’ll find a new location.  MASH means Mobile 
               Army Surgical Hospital, and mobile you shall be.

The camp is tuned into chaos when General Steele arrives to inspect the 4077 and demonstrates some bizarre behaviour that makes him appear to be insane.  His order to relocate the 4077 closer to the front line convinces the officers that he is crazy.

In a constantly changing world the ability for organisations to remain mobile is critical to keep up with their particular market and client needs.  Organisations and leaders who refuse to adjust their position in response to their environment will not only miss opportunities for growth, but risk declining and slipping into irrelevance.  As a church leader, I am all too aware of the importance of keeping the church mobile to be a dynamic movement in the present instead of a static monument to the past.  In his book Where the Rivers Flow, Peter Kaldor identifies the challenge for the church to reach the moving masses:  “Traditional models of ministry tend to be based on a local area.  Greater mobility therefore presents considerable challenges to church ministries.”  Every context of leadership faces the same challenges in keeping their core business mobile to effectively reach beyond their local context.