What is the link between me, the Royal Air Force Youth Training Scheme, the SAS and leadership? Moreover, what has any of this got to do with this #GoodWalk and 5.25 hard miles from Amroth to Pendine (the pictures in this blog)? I'll explain it.
In 1985 I joined the RAF on the government YTS scheme, going on to join the RAF "proper" in 1986. The reasons for my decision were many, but a big part was my wellbeing and getting away from a bad situation. What I remember was a gorgeous late July afternoon as I got off the train at Hereford to begin my life journey as an independent "adult".
The RAF introduced me to the concept of leadership. We didn't talk about styles back then. What we did talk about was decision-making, situational awareness and awareness of the needs of our teams. Thinking about it, if you cut away the hype, what has changed?
My first leadership learning moment is still with me today. It involved putting a team of five people, who were under fire and wearing camouflage gear, in front of a red-painted wall. I was that leader! My decisions were swiftly met by a cutting Drill Staff rollocking :-)
I was 16 at the time, 16-and-a-half to be precise, and living my best life. Four weeks into basic training and I was on the back of a lorry heading to an exercise area located in Morton-On-Lugg. This was no ordinary camp; this was a specialist SAS training area.
I experienced a three-day crash course in leadership and followership involving CS gas, vomiting and a temporary loss of hearing due to being too close to an exploding Thunder Flash. A demonstration involving plastic explosive and an Audi Quatro was the stuff of teenage dreams, especially in the 1980's Rambo era (my nickname was Rambo Griff - don't ask).
During my time in Hereford, I took part in Resource & Initiative Training in Brecon. The Drill Staff taunted us with talk of the Fan Dance (if you haven't heard of it, take a look at the link). We didn't do the whole dance, but, let me tell you, we danced! Then vomited. A lot!
All this came flooding back to me last night, watching an episode of SAS Who Dares Wins. Today, teenage memories supercharging my adrenaline, I challenged myself to relieve a little of my youth. The pictures in this blog are from a #GoodWalk that turned into a run.
I used the time to reflect on what leadership means to me. I also pondered why the concept of leadership paints a picture of the always-on-leader when reality shows us that leadership is just as much about followership.
We can't all be leaders. We certainly can't all be leaders all of the time. Meaning, at some point, we are a follower.
We follow our significant other as much as we lead. We follow the thoughts of others, probably more than we thought lead. We read books on leadership styles and follow the ideals of others when we are all unique and are better off creating and honing our personal style.
So much time is devoted to being a leader because it just isn't sexy to talk about being a follower. There's something almost second rate attached to the follower label. In reading one-too-many leadership books in my time, the overwhelming assumption seems to be that every follower should aspire to be a leader.
I often wonder, can a follower influence a leader. If a follower decisively influences the leader, then who is the leader?
Even my favourite TV show, SAS Who Dares Wins, creates the perception that everything is about leadership when good followership can make an average leader look good.
I share my stories in our work.shops because I find by following:
I know when it is time to lead
I learn just as much as when I lead
I better understand how to lead from being a good follower.
But, ultimately, I follow because I can and because I am good at it. And what is so wrong about that?
I finished today's Good Walk/run, and my Garmin watch said that my exercise load was 33% lower than the day before, even though I ran, not walked, harder miles and for longer. Not impressed and I'm not letting that go, Garmin!