Over the years I have met a number of interesting people. One of my favorites is a person whom I consider to be a Canadian National Treasure, retired Major General Lewis MacKenzie.
Lew had the doubtful pleasure of commanding the United Nations forces in Kosovo during the major conflict times. One evening while we were discussing leadership principles he told me a story that made a lot of sense.
General MacKenzie was in command a hodgepodge of troops from many different countries, races and ethnic backgrounds. The high command of the UN decided this challenging mix of soldiers needed to be stationed in Sarajevo, which was in the middle of the battle zone between the factions who were at war over who was to control the country. His command was significantly divided across all kinds of challenging beliefs, values ethnicities and experiences.
Added to this was the fact that every day his whole command was being regularly shelled from three directions while he received a seemingly infinite string of nit picking, non value added, sometimes conflicting commands from UN brass and bureaucrats.
As Lew struggled with trying to achieve some semblance of control over this chaos his Command Sergeant Major (CSM) made his thoughts known; Morale was in the toilet and The General needed to make his presence real at the battle front with the troops he commanded.
After some intense discussion Lew ordered the CSM to come to his office in the morning, after lunch and in the evening every day. When his CSM entered The General put down the paperwork and followed the CSM to the field for an hour of face time with the various units under The General’s command.
His whole organization’s culture dynamic took a major turn for the better as order, personal discipline and morale were lifted beyond measure.
Each of you is an important leader in your organization, whether you realize it or not. And your people need to see you and interact with you at the workface. If you will put down the office work and make your leadership visible and felt you will be amazed at how much better your organization performs.
Thank you, Major General Lewis MacKenzie, for this lesson in leadership.