As I graduated from West Point and then served as a leader in the US Army, I learned these three words are a hallmark of great leadership. The Army certainly needs great leaders to send men to possible death in combat. They emphasize that BE comes foremost. Let us explore why and what that means.
BE is pre-eminent.
We must BE people who will do what is right whether others are watching or not. We need to hire leaders who will put BE before Know and Do.
BE is about having the character to do what is right even when it is hardest. Anyone can tell the truth most of the time, but leaders of character tell the truth when it will clearly hurt themselves. That is a leader of character and you need to be that and need to focus on hiring that. It does not show up on a resume. So you must be able to get past the resume to find out what the candidate has deep within them.
Let us start with being trustworthy. Can workers trust us to be straight with them? Leaders often call on workers to be loyal to them but are those leaders loyal to their workers in the same way? That is character. Character produces action that we ask of our workers. Character holds us to the same standard as our workers.
Many times we fool ourselves as to whether we are really living up to being the person who workers want to follow. We need feedback from those who see us closely.
I once worked for an owner who touted his fine company values, but he was clearly violating 8 of the ten values he threw around. He brought people in to teach workers the values and violated 8 himself. How do you think values training went over in that environment? The owner did not violate 8 values a day, but when the chips were down, he was sure to violate the values. Workers could not just forget the example that the owner was setting. He followed the values when it was convenient and pushed them aside when it was not convenient. Workers then did the same and sometimes got blamed by the owner. His best leaders fled from him.
Of course other leaders do not espouse values at all. They set goals for revenue growth and people learn that money is the only value the company respects and follow accordingly.
To BE means to have values that you stand by in good times and bad. It means to have values that are honorable and right before all the people.
They are the foundation of great leadership and the US Army knows that. They will not forget that BE comes before know and do. We should not either. Know and Do follow naturally on any good BE part we can establish.
What are you seeing? How do you see it? Please tangibly comment and not just say “agree” unless I have quopted you and context is obvious. Say I agree with how you said blah blah blah and this is why or how I will use …or something like that.
Really glad to hear from you.