In days of old, generals would take up positions on opposite hills as their troops descended into a valley to wage war. From their vantage point, the generals could direct their forces to best advantage. Warfare has changed little over the decades, but technology has now allowed military leaders to get a much better vantage point above the action. Air support AEWACs (airborne early warning and control) aircraft now soar high above the action, relaying detailed instructions and intelligence information to troops on the ground. These aircraft afford the military leader an unprecedented view of the unfolding events. Leaders are able to dedicate themselves to the work of strategizing and directing. This approach to leading is the difference between ground troops having the upper hand in accomplishing their tasks or being blind-sided at every turn. Both the generals of old and the military leaders of today know that they fulfill a vital role by getting above the action and bringing new perspective to the fight.
Now imagine for a moment that the military leader were to order the plane to the ground, hop out of the plane and, pulling out a service revolver, make a dash for the front line. Jumping into a foxhole, they turn to a somewhat surprised Sargent and exclaim: “Hey solider! I’m here to help.” The Sargent becoming composed, replies: “Well Colonel, what’s the plan?”. The Colonel peering over the edge of the foxhole notes: “I don’t know anymore, Sargent. We’ll just take things as they come.” How absurd would this situation be? What would possess someone charged with strategic analysis and directing operations to leave their vantage point from where they can make great contributions to take up a position from where they can contribute little and where they have placed themselves and everyone that reports to them in a strategic void? No one could be that irresponsible, could they?
But is this not simply an analogy for managers in every sector and industry? The manager’s position exists for strategic analysis and directing resources. Managing is the industry version of Air Support. So, let me ask you a simple question: Are you directing your people from a position in the air or on the ground?