Summer Leadership Series: Leading Under Fire

Shirk-145728-180x180We welcome our friend Norma Shirk as a guest blogger this summer.  Norma is an expert in HR systems and policy.  She understands great leadership and offers her thoughts in our Summer Leadership Series.


Building a successful team is never easy.  Managers and business owners who hire “yes-men” tend to ride their egos and a false consensus to financial ruin. On the other hand, having too many different opinions can paralyze decision-making and cause companies to fall apart.  What should an intelligent manager or business owner do?

summer leadereship seriesTake a lesson from one of the best team managers of all time. George Washington formed a Cabinet that included Alexander Hamilton as Treasury Secretary and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. These two men didn’t like each other personally and they had opposing political philosophies.

Hamilton wanted a strong central government and an industrialized economy. Jefferson wanted a weak central government with most power residing with the states and an economy based on agriculture. These conflicting visions of America are as strong today as they were over 200 years ago.

Washington kept his feuding Cabinet members functioning as a team and he did it while building the political structure of the U.S. from scratch. The traditions we esteem today were created by Washington to work around the political battles in his Cabinet and with the leaders of Congress.

Washington made it all work by the force of his personality. He was calm and assured under pressure. He was usually able to contain his anger and find a compromise to disputes. He gathered data carefully and listened to all sides of an argument. Then he made his own decisions. 

Building a functioning team means having calm, assertive leadership that listens to all viewpoints before making a final decision. Washington was one of the best at it. 

For more information about Washington, you can choose from hundreds of books about the man. A recent favorite of mine, because it’s informative and so well-written, is Washington, A Life, by Ron Chernow (2010). 

About the Author
Norma Shirk helps employers create human resources policies that are appropriate for the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.  Learn more here about Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor.

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