While recently journaling and reading over Thanksgiving in the Galapagos Islands my thoughts turned to recent Leadership Excellence Course attendees who described performance issues within their organizations. Specifically, some of them asked "How do I get people on my team, who don't work directly for me, to get more done?"
As leaders, rather than just managers, we should strive to create alignment & common purpose. About the same time, I was reading a blog by Victor Davis Hanson, referencing his new book The Second World Wars. The productivity surge in the U.S. from 1941 to 1945 was mind-boggling. In Dr. Hanson's words:
The generation that came of age in the 1940s had survived the poverty of the Great Depression to win a global war that cost 60 million lives, while participating in the most profound economic and technological transformation in human history as a once rural America metamorphosed into a largely urban and suburban culture of vast wealth and leisure.
Their achievement from 1941 to 1945 remains unprecedented. The United States on the eve of World War II had an army smaller than Portugal’s. It finished the conflict with a global navy larger than all of the fleets of the world put together. By 1945, America had a GDP equal to those of Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the British Empire combined. With a population 50 million people smaller than that of the USSR, the United States fielded a military of roughly the same size.
America almost uniquely fought at once in the Pacific, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Europe, on and beneath the seas, in the skies, and on land. On the eve of the war, America’s military and political leaders, still traumatized by the Great Depression, fought bitterly over modest military appropriations, unsure of whether the country could afford even a single additional aircraft carrier or another small squadron of B-17s. Yet four years later, civilians had built 120 carriers of various types and were producing a B-24 bomber at the rate of one an hour at the Willow Run factory in Michigan. Such vast changes are still difficult to appreciate.
So, are our jobs today really so difficult? Perhaps we have relaxed about what is possible on a national, organizational, and especially, individual leadership level. Pause and think about the environment we are genuinely capable of creating and aligning our teams with our boldest visions and goals. Great leadership produces great results.