Wisdom of the Bullfrog
McRaven, Admiral William H. The Wisdom of the Bullfrog – Leadership Made Simple (But Not Easy). New York: Hachette.
This book is about leadership and life. I heard about this book while seeing an interview on a morning news program. When McRaven used the quote by Pope Francis he had me hooked. “A shepherd should smell like his sheep.” Leaders must model the behavior they want to see in the organization. Educational leaders must remember what it is like being a teacher in front of thirty or more moving targets and have sweaty palms.
The book is filled with quotes and stories that illuminate the quote and the implementation of planning. All these sayings have a storied history that drove leaders at the time to make certain profound decisions.
A good leader knows both how to inspire the men and women that work for them and how to manage the people and resources necessary to complete the task. But leadership is not just about getting the job done. I remember Angeles Arrien said in a workshop that leadership is a balance of task and relationships. Too much on task, relationships suffer. Too much on relationships, you might not get the tasks done.
Whenever I had a difficult decision to make, I would ask myself, “Can you stand before the long green table?” Translation: can you justify the decision and explain what drove the decision-making process.
The SEAL mantra, The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday. That resonated with me. When I think, it is going to by an easy day, it hits the fan. And, when it hits the fan, it is never evenly distributed.
The Girl Scout Law says, “I will do my best to be honest and fair…and make the world a better place.” What is the long-term goal for you professionally and personally? How does that make the world a better place? Being a person of high integrity is what separates the great leaders from the commonplace.
Never underestimate the power of hope. Hope is what inspires, hope is what encourages, hope is what empowers, and without hope, nothing worthwhile can be accomplished. But hope alone is just wishful thinking. Pair hope with a sound strategy, a detailed plan, and a lot of hard work, and nothing is out of reach. What I have found by coming out of retirement is creating hope and communicating that preferred future is absolutely critical in regaining energy and confidence in schools.
No Plan Survives First Contact with the Enemy. It might not be the enemy and this quote fits many of the best laid plans. General Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” And from Taylor Swift, “Just because you made a good plan doesn’t mean that is what is going to happen.”
Here is an example of the rules at the end of some of the chapters:
- Always consider the worst-case scenario and plan accordingly.
- Test the plan to ensure everyone in the organization know how to react when things go poorly.
- Be prepared. Murphy was an optimist.
In my last New Rule post, learningomnivores.com/rules/school-leadership-navy-seals/ we wrote about a BUMP plan. Have a plan B, C, etc. Rarely do things go as plan. McRaven when leading the operation to find Osama Bin Laden had the team plan for every bump in the road. That is why they got out safely even after one of the helicopters was not able to fly.
“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver
It is not making mistakes that is so terrible (unless personal or environmental injury occurs), it is not learning from the experience or blame avoidance. Assigning blame rather than putting issues on the table wastes precious time and reduces trust.
Sooner or later the actions of every leader will be scrutinized both externally and internally. Making a hard decision will sometimes lose your friends. People will be mad at you. Short-term gains may be lost. You may even be court-martialed.
Always Have a Swim Buddy. “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
Admiral McRaven talked about Chris Faris. For me, as a high school principal, it is my administrative assistant, colleagues, and more specifically, those who will tell me the trust. Every leader does have bad days. Every leader does need someone to talk to. Every leader must find someone they can trust. Swim buddies are necessity in life.
Understand that by being a leader with integrity, you are creating a strong culture for your organization, because the culture of every organization begins at the top.
If you’re not prepared to tackle the hard problems, then you are not leadership material. But always remember, there is a difference between taking risks and being too cavalier.
Wherever you sit as a leader, don’t sit for long. Get out of your office and spend time with the employees. The buck stops with you. Great leaders accept the responsibility and the accountability. Always ensure your actions and decisions are moral, legal, and ethical.
No leader is immune from the pressures of the job. You must have a support system with you. Never stop learning and studying. Your direct reports deserve not less. You do the best you can and be able to look in the mirror every single day.
I encourage you to buy this book, determine what speaks to you, and start practicing with the rules provided. What a read.