During 10 years of accomplished military service, Jamie served his country all over the globe with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, commanding 35 special operations missions. In his Perspectives on Leadership talk, Jamie highlighted key aspects of his leadership style that proved very effective in leading high performance teams in the most challenging war zones in the world. Under immense pressure, his people-centric leadership approach rooted in his strong values proved highly successful. The following were some of the main leadership lessons from his talk:
Lifelong student of leadership: Leaders are made, not born. Jamie is constantly learning many leadership lessons watching others around him and uses that to re-invent himself and adapt his leadership styles accordingly. While he has seen some great leadership role models, equally important were poor leaders from whom he learned about pitfalls of leadership. Under this model of lifelong learning, he has built his own “authentic” leadership style that is compatible with his capabilities.
Confidence, Competence and Proficiency: While these traits develop over time in a new environment, knowing his team helped him lead more effectively and achieve difficult goals. An important part of his role as a leader was in understanding the strengths, skills, motivations and limitations of his team members. By knowing his team members and how they fit into the bigger puzzle, Jamie was able to facilitate and guide the process while allowing his strong team to lead the implementation.
Humility and Empowering subordinates: Jamie built endearing followership with his subordinates by accepting his mistakes candidly and regularly engaging in feedback sessions after every mission. His honest and transparent communication on successes, failures and lessons learned helped everyone believe in the team and ensure that failures were not repeated. By empowering his subordinates and using their talent and energy to solve problems Jamie was able to get people working hard to solve “their” problems together.
Setting the example: Role-modeling good behavior helps build bridges in hostile situations. Jamie specifically highlighted how establishing medical clinics with great difficulty in Afghanistan helped people believe in the American team’s mission of helping the community and building the country. Through community building, one clinic at a time, his team was able to earn strong support from the local people, even from those previously hostile. His best memory from this experience was when a five year old girl made a two mile trip to admit her three year old younger brother to the medical clinic in hopes of receiving better care.
Taking responsibility for people: Jamie consistently took care of people who worked for him and protected them from any treatment. By showing he cared for his people and sticking his neck out for his team, he was able to build endearing support and followership from his team. He constantly helped out with menial tasks, and got to know each of them personally. By deflecting praise for accomplishments to his team and protecting them from higher level bosses, he was able to set a strong example for his team.
While Jamie’s experiences have been highly successful in the military, earning him multiple military awards and extensive recognition, his leadership principles are equally applicable in any professional setting.
Perspectives on Leadership is an innovative attempt to explore the unique leadership experiences of the Wharton MBA student body. It is designed to challenge us to think about leadership from new perspectives, while celebrating the experiences of fellow students.