I’m reading the book “The Blood of Heroes.” It’s about the Alamo, and if you’re from the U.S., you know how that event ends. But let’s not get ahead of the story.
At the start of his Alamo siege, Santa Anna ordered the red flag of ‘no quarter’ to be flown, indicating that no man inside the Alamo would be taken prisoner. Despite the warning, Alamo commander William Travis rallied all but one man to stay and fight, including legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett and his 65 Tennessee volunteers. Crockett and his men held to the last in defending the fort’s weakest point, but after 13 days, Santa Anna’s troops finally overwhelmed the defenders and, as promised, no mercy was shown and no prisoners were taken.
In the business world, have you ever used the expression “red flag” in a report, meeting, or conversation to fire up the troops? Sure you have. Granted, the phrase “no mercy and no prisoners” in its strictest sense wasn’t implied; but still, you wanted to convey a strong warning with consequences.
Let’s be totally dramatic for a second: Imagine a team meeting where your manager draws out her laser pointer and, with its red dot, draws a line on the carpet before her. She explains that the timely arrival of the new product reinforcements is not going to happen. The competition is at the front gates and their executives are waving red flags. Then she challenges each member of the team to make his own decision, but hopes each person will cross the line and stay on to fight, even in the face of limited resources and probable downsizing. Would you cross the line, prepared to do battle even though your chances for success seem bleak?
Okay, maybe we should turn down a little of the drama. What type of leaders have you worked extra hard for in the past? What leadership traits motivate you to take on stretch goals without hesitation? Here are a few of the traits of the bosses I admire most:
- Integrity: They know how to build trust, when and how to share information, and are expert listeners. A lack of integrity is a deal breaker for me. If I can’t trust my boss, I can’t stay.
- Curiosity: They are internally motivated to increase their knowledge base and to convert their learning into actionable initiatives. They are not afraid to question, challenge, or confront the status quo.
- Intellectual Capacity: They are good thinkers at both the strategic and tactical levels. They are quick on their feet and know how to get to the root of an issue faster than anyone else.
- Action Orientation: They have a strong bias to action, and they lead the charge.
- Social Acumen: They understand how to recruit, develop, and deploy talent, focusing on applying the best talent to the best opportunities. They also know when it is time to make changes and cut losses as needed.
- Confidence without Conceit: Their egos are the right size – big enough to go to bat to the higher-ups on behalf of their direct reports, but not so big that they can’t admit when they are wrong or when they need help.
- Respect: They treat everyone with respect, from the CEO to the janitor.
What about you? What leadership traits inspire you to support your leader with Davy Crockett-like tenacity?