Why Leaders Never Lose Sight of the Basics

by Wayne Sharer

International speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Retired navy officer, former commanding officer. Over 35 years of leading, coaching, mentoring, and speaking.

July 9, 2018

Often you hear leaders and others say they must get “back to the basics.”

This phrase has a different meaning for you and I and those you work with and lead and manage. If you don’t believe me, just ask them. You may be very surprised.

So, let’s only look at this from a leadership perspective. Remember, being a good leader is never just about you. It’s always about you, your decisions, your actions, and how they collectively impact those you lead.

In my first career as a U.S. Navy officer, I spent most of my 22 years without the use of the commercial internet at sea. Yet we did what would now be described as highly complex, virtual operations from ships at sea.

In 1986, I was part of Operation El Dorado Canyon. This was the response to the terror attacks directed by then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

It involved coordination between forces at sea, and on different continents to get everything to happen at exactly the right place, in the middle of the night, at exactly the right time.

It was all done with most participants never meeting, seeing or talking to each other prior to performing their mission. It was a very virtual operation conducted without the modern internet.

As complex as the overall coordination and performance was, the success depended on this massive, ad hoc team performing all the foundational skills they had learned flawlessly. This included:

  • Fueling aircraft
  • Essential maintenance on aircraft
  • Fueling ships at sea
  • Essential maintenance on ships at sea
  • Communicating clearly
  • Following directions
  • Preparing for their individual flights and roles
  • Checking their flight gear
  • Pre-flight checking their aircraft
  • Etc., etc.

These were the basics. The leadership never lost sight of those basics as they put into motion a very complex network to coordinate the union of the forces at the right time and in the right place. When the basic skills became intermingled, the mission soon seemed far more than remembering the basics.

Yet, because all involved were extremely skilled at the basics, the mission was a huge success.

Leaders must never lose sight of the basics. It’s not about whether you as the leader can do these basics or even how good you are personally at performing them. It’s about never allowing your team to sidestep them.

The basics, for a leader, should be the common foundational elements that occur in most evolutions you plan and execute. Without any one of these foundational pieces, you create a weak spot and potential point of failure.

For you to succeed as a leader, you must know what these basics are and then never lose sight of them.

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