Platoon Leader vs. Manager

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Having left the army in 1989, at the age of 20, my leadership and management skills were very much in early development. Two valuable skills were emerging from the African heat and dust –
Leading from the front and, managing soldiers, by identifying their strengths and weaknesses.
Profiling members of my team was critical for building a cohesive and effective force.
Beginning my civilian (civvie) career, in junior management, was daunting and the belief that I would be putting my arsenal of skills to bed to develop a new array of techniques, could not have been further from the truth.
A platoon facing the enemy requires the stamina, courage, fortitude, versatility, training and strategy of a battle-ready team. The measure of its success lies in victory but the pinnacle of true success is its ability to continue when it’s leader falls in battle.
Production Management proved no different and my early mentor was a seasoned veteran in “civvie” leadership & management.
After 25 years, his words of wisdom echo as crisp and loud as they did then.
“Your mission Bryan, is to make yourself redundant.”
I was confused. I had only just started. Was he crazy? I had bills to pay and I liked the meatballs they served in the canteen.
“When you can walk away and the department can function, effectively, without you being there, you’ve done what every Manager should strive for.”
“Then, and only then, will I promote you.”
To this day, no inspirational quote or education has stood me on firmer ground than those words he etched in my memory.
In my experience, understanding people is critical. To identify ones strengths and weaknesses are the building blocks of effective management. Identifying my own, allowed me to source professionals from HR and Engineering, who were able to help train and develop my teams. They helped engineer and design new working practices and assisted to promote staff who possessed leadership skills and passion to drive up production and manage sections within the department.

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Along my journey, I’ve learned that no Manager can do it alone – Try, and you will fail.

Have the humility and wisdom to ask for help because, after all, a goalkeeper alone cannot win a football match. Stand behind an effective team.

As Managers, we do ourselves a grave injustice and thwart our own development by not recognising and developing those people within our teams, who can achieve more than we are prepared or bothered to discover. Take courage in your convictions. Be confident to delegate to those who you recognise are capable. By serving the very employees who serve you, you will empower them to self-manage. By providing continuous support and loyalty, you will develop the trust and reciprocal support of your staff, allowing you to spread your ambitious wings.


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