Gung Ho and Leadership

The book "Gung Ho!" by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles is a must reading for those who would like to turn things around in an organization that either has lost its way or lost its steam. For many, this could be an eye-opener but for some who have been in the trenches of developing organizations and driving them to take the challenges of evolving, much of the teachings in “Gung Ho!” would be a given.

Gung Ho!” teaches about the Lesson of the Squirrel: Worthwhile Work. People must understand that their work is important in the greater scheme of things. People in our organization must share this understanding and the goals that must be achieved. Our understanding and our shared goals must be ingrained in our values or are sustained by our values.

The second lesson of “Gung Ho!” is the "Lesson of the Beaver": In Control of Achieving the Goal. The book defines the elements of control as the ability to understand and know the realm within which you can act, to have full appreciation of every person in the organization, and to challenge and stretch the boundaries of uncharted possibilities within capacity of the people who will pursue the goals.

Gung Ho!” closes with the third lesson: The "Lesson of the Goose": Cheering Each Other On. Cheering each other on means congratulations should be true whether active or passive. We must cheer or excite people to go on not just in the end but the whole stretch or process of achieving results.

You get a variation of all of these lessons in management classics like "In Search of Excellence" by Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr., followed by "A Passion for Excellence" by Thomas J. Peters and Nancy Austin, "Theory Z" of Professor William Ouchi of Harvard, "Mission Possible" by Ken Blanchard and Terry Woghorn and even from the more recent "Direct from Dell" written by Michael Dell himself of Dell Computer Corporation.

The one thing that “Gung Ho!“ does not openly teach but is skirting or is swimming around in the book is the key that binds all three lessons. The key that ensures the three lessons are understood and lived by. The key is leadership.

The individual character that grows from these lessons must be embodied in a person. It must be perceived in and lived by the one person who will demonstrate that these lessons are real and achievable. That person is the leader.

There are many shades of leaderships you may have witnessed and read about but the most common for me in my experience for the last 20 years seem to fall in different colors of grey in two personalities: The Boss and The Politician.

The Boss is the control freak: Always scared of losing control, always putting people down, always making everyone feel inadequate, always in on things however trivial or mundane, always the chairman of something, the only one who can do it, never delegates, all-knowing, the only one who can approve, only one who will be there, only one who is first, only one who is last, hates the young potential heir to the throne, the self-appointed expert of everything or the Only One of almost anything.

The Politician is the other side of The Boss: Always pleasing everyone, cannot make up his own mind, always seem to be doing something about nothing, always find someone to blame for anything, has always the right reason why it isn't him when things are bad, always find a good reason why it is him when things are good, wants to be boss but does not want to be accountable, the regular court jester, always congratulating but always scheming to get you out of the way, very good at teaching Gung Ho! but don't know where to start, always starting something but never finishing, finishing something but does not remember why he started it or he is simply the common variety "wimp" in an executive suit.

We need leaders who are generative. We need leaders who bring out the best in us. The most memorable interaction with leaders that defined who I am is not really the most astounding but they are indeed profound. These leaders are not the kind we see in the limelight and they seldom are. These leaders make us realize without trying who we can be or what we can be. Their mere presence calms us and assures us that things will be better.

We should seek out the leaders among us. Bring them out and follow them. Better yet, let us seek out the leader within ourselves let it define the rest of who we are. Let that leader bring us into the light allowing us to discern the best in us that has always been there.

Gung Ho, friends!


Thane said…
Just think what it would be like to actually WORK for a company that is Gung Ho.
It is almost to good to be true :)
Thane said…
Ahhhhhh what would it be like to actually WORK for a Company that is truely Gung Ho.
It is almost to good to be true.

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