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One of the most under-rated events in history was when Sir Isaac Newton witnessed an apple falling from a tree and said to himself, “WTF?” Sure, long before humankind had acknowledged that things fall and Galileo confirmed empirically that things fall at the same rate regardless of their relative weight, but Newton was the first one to wonder why. Likewise, light had been around since shortly after Heaven and Earth were created, but it wasn’t until Albert Einstein said “WTF?” that someone stumbled upon a theoretical explanation that would revolutionize the world. How long had humankind accepted that a person standing on a flatcar in the middle of a speeding train at the instant two separate flashes of lightning struck both ends of the train simultaneously would see the flashes of light at the same instant regardless of how fast that train was approaching one strike and moving away from the other? Were it not for Albert imagining such situations and wondering why, we might not to this day be enjoying the benefits that have emerged from his “Theory of Relativity”.


Why not?

Despite the relative relationships between time and space that Einstein’s theory introduced, we still take the concept of time for granted.  We envision it as a river flowing incessantly at a constant rate from the present to the future, but now it’s time to use our imaginations.  Imagine for a second, yourself and a friend strapped safely on the bullet of a gun that is fired at high velocity at a rate of, let’s say, 1500 feet every second through a crowd of people. Assuming your mind could process the information fast enough, you and your friend would gaze out from your cockpit at the people in the crowd who would look like mannequins seemingly frozen in time… if such a thing were possible.   Imagine that bullet travels full circle back to the muzzle of the gun like a roller coaster arriving safely back at its terminal.  Despite the apparent passage of time on the bullet defined only by your ability to process the information you perceive on your trip, you and your friend disembark into the cacophony and chaos that has yet to erupt.  WTF?

I don’t know enough about Relativity or the other theories that have emerged since to know if there is an explanation for this scenario. What I do know is that some clever brains have been wrapped around those kinds of questions, and if someone hasn’t already come up with a theory that tentatively explains this and potentially offers other valuable insight into other mysteries associated with time, that day will come. My point in all of this is that the average person is often blind to situations or phenomena that surround us. I submit that it is the rare for people to go think beyond the dogma of the way we live our lives and ask themselves “why” we do some things the way we do.  It is even the rarer for people to be courageous enough to say “why not” and use their imaginations to deviate from convention and the status quo.  I suggest this is how people identify and take advantage of opportunities that lay unexploited by the ignorant masses, and what differentiates the true “leaders” from the rest of us.

Gorilla Leaders don’t hesitate to ask “why” or to say “why not”, and then set out to make life better for everybody in the community.  That is why the world needs more Gorilla Leaders!



Pièce de Résistance

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I will now introduce a concept that was, very much, an epiphany for me vis-à-vis the study and application of command and control.  The centrepiece of what I call Gorilla Leadership, the Boyd Decision-Action Cycle is a fundamental concept to a leadership bias, personal and organizational.


Also known as the OODA Loop, f the Boyd (Decision-Action) Cycle is essential to understanding and fostering a leader-biased culture in any organization. P@

Pictured here is the Boyd Decision-Action Cycle.  It was devised by Colonel John Boyd, The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (Coram, Robert; Little, Brown and Company, 2002), who was inspirational as he was controversial.  He came up with the concept when he was analysing the outcome of dog fights during the Korean War between US and communist aircraft.  You will excuse my lack of attention to the details, as I am an infantryman and too much airforce talk bores and evades me.  Suffice to say that the communist forces had a much more capable aircraft in terms of speed and firepower but they were being shot down in not-insignificant numbers by the US Airforce.  Boyd determined that the reason was the US aircraft had a cockpit that afforded the pilot much better visibility and hence situational and positional awareness than their enemy.  Boyd deduced that US pilots could better observe the tactics of their opponent, orient themselves advantageously and launch their ordinance at the decisive moment.  His theory was fundamental to the design of modern day fighter aircraft in the United States.

Boyd is often referred to as a Warrior Scholar, because his analytical skills were rivalled by his knowledge of arts and sciences.  His scientific acumen in the technical world was evident in the influence he had on a generation of aviation, but he was also somewhat of a historian, and an eclectic one at that.  Boyd reverse-engineered many of the key battles of human history and deduced that the forces that could execute the Decision-Action Cycle, often referred to as the OODA Loop, more rapidly than their opponent would usually end up being the victor.  So compelling was his analyses and theories that the United States Marine Corps quickly recruited him as a  professor in the USMC University at Quantico, Virginia.  That was a stroke of luck for Boyd because his big personality and the commensurate size of his oral cavity caused him to become somewhat of an outsider in the fighter jock community.  It was a stroke of luck for the Marine Corps also, because embracing the theory of the Boyd Cycle had a profound impact on the operational effectiveness of perhaps the most formidable mass fighting force the world has ever seen: The few, the proud, the Marines!

With this as an introduction, my next few posts will elaborate on the OODA Loop, the Holy Grail of leader-biased command.


What’s in a Name?

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Leader-biased Comd.001

A Leader in the truest sense of the label.

What is in a name?  Everything, I would suggest.  There is probably nothing that plays a bigger part in a person’s life than that person’s name.  Decades ago Dale Carnegie canonized the principles of making friends and influencing people, and his third principle was “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language“.  The first thing people do when they meet is offer their name, the first thing we do when we welcome a pet into the home is name it.  Names are labels, and labels are a pre-occupation of human kind.  Listen to politicians and pundits in debates, they will overwhelm you with simplistic labels that often pack very deep and complex meanings.  Just as often the definition underlying such labels are lost on or misconstrued by the audience, but that doesn’t hinder the debate.

Authority biased Comd.001

Better to call this person a “dictator” than a “leader”?

When I was with the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman our staff began using the default term “stakeholders” to refer to the people we served but I quickly intervened.  That term was already in use by the Department in reference to the major advocacy groups and individuals in the veterans community.  They were most certainly NOT our stakeholders.  In fact, several of the major groups had encouraged the government not to create an ombudsman position, insisting that they already fulfilled that function.  Nothing could be further from the truth, however.  Their stake in our existence was minimal, the real stakeholders were the veterans themselves and their families.  Indeed there were occasions where the Department’s so-called “stakeholders” were implicated in the complaints we received from our true “stakeholders”.  I felt that was a very important distinction that had to be made and consciously embraced in order to nurture within the Office a culture of empathy and commitment towards our veterans and their families.

Mgt biaased Comd.001

There is a lot in a name, so people must understand the concepts beneath the label. P@

This brings me to the point of this post, in fact the point of this entire site.  I submit that we use the term “Leader” too loosely.  In his book “Irresponsible Government: The Decline of Parliamentary Democracy in Canada” fallen-Conservative caucus member Brent Rathegeber asserts that in the capacity of Prime Minister the party “leader” should not be a “lord” over the caucus – his words.  I would inject other labels such as ruler, dictator, director, chief, or even the title “commander” because in the Gorilla Command Model the “leader” has a very precise meaning.  I hasten to add that, in the Model, the attributes of leadership, management, and authority are not mutually exclusive.  Although a person in charge (PIC) may choose a singular approach to command, a PIC who governs autocratically can still be considered leader-biased so long as the collective end-state is ahead of the competition and serves a common or greater good.

This website is not about politics, but I couldn't resist. P@

This website is not about politics, but I couldn’t resist. P@

In the final analysis, I am under no illusion that we could assign labels to supervisors that more precisely describe their method.  That would be inconvenient and confusing.  Suffice to say that anybody with a genuine desire to serve humankind in whatever capacity at any level will discriminate between the various approaches to stewardship.



Leadership – A Metaphor

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I uphold that one of five defining characteristics of leadership is competition. As such, sports is a useful metaphor for me to describe the difference between what I perceive to be the common leader and what I call a Gorilla Leader. I sometimes compare racing with hockey to illustrate the difference.

All leaders take one step forward!

All leaders take one step forward!

In a running race it is easy to determine the leader. At any point in time, the leader is the person who is out front. Clearly the leader is in the race for her or himself. On a hockey team, it is a bit different. The leader could rightfully be considered General Manager or Coach, but I would like to focus at the athletic level. Hockey teams normally assign a Team Captain. I have asked many of the hockey gods I skate with what constitutes a Team Captain. Of course attributes like individual skills and congeniality enter into the discussion, but the central theme of bringing out the best performance of everyone or enhancing the collective competitiveness of the entire team seems to dominate.

I refer to the first type of competitor as the “First Follower.”  First Followers are the supervisors who will do anything their boss tells them to do and do so in an exemplary fashion, but their motive is to get ahead in the organization. First Followers are encumbered by a propensity for Group Think.  First Followers endeavour to come across to the supervisor as ‘better than their peers’. Gorilla Leaders endeavour to fulfill the needs of the community, which is often the organization and their employees, before themselves.

87, Sidney Crosby, C, PITIt can be argued that the leader in a race brings out the best in people merely by setting the standard that one has to meet or surpass. I will accept that, but I see that as an example of supervisors who promote careerism in the workplace. The other runners are certainly capable of meeting the challenge and performing at a commensurate level, but the motivation is egocentric. There is no denying the existence of an egocentric element in team players, and a Gorilla Leader will endeavour to bring out the personal best of every competitor. However, Gorilla Leaders also inspire players to focus their efforts on the common good of team. That could be in the form of encouragement and example, although I have heard unconfirmed roots that Mark Messier had another way of inspiring teamwork.

I intend to examine in much more detail how leadership manifests itself in sports. I would be interested to hear your views on what a team captain brings to a hockey team, as well as some examples of how some team captains may have approached that role.


Act Like a Leader

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I assert that the difference between leadership-biased commanders and management-biased commanders is how they think.  That said, like the US Army’s leadership model “Be-Know-Do” suggests there is most certainly a behavioural component to leadership also.  Literally thousands of volumes have been written on the subject, but sometimes we don’t need too much detail or theory.  Sometimes quality can override quantity, especially when we are looking at principles for shaping our behaviour or changing our habits to be a more effective leader.

If you want to learn about leadership, ask a Ranger!

If you want to learn about leadership, ask a Ranger!

The Website The Rhino Den offers one of the most concise and thoughtful pieces on how to act like a leader that I have seen, Nick’s Rules on Leadership  I think it kind of encapsulates what a young officer is expected to learn after a year of training and a tour as a platoon commander.  Many don’t, and many won’t learn these lessons after a lifetime of service in numerous command appointments.  I commend the author, Nick Palmisciano of Ranger Up, for creating such a wise piece of advice!

Anybody in a stewardship position who is truly committed to being an effective leader will do well by printing out a copy of this and holding onto it as an Aide de Memoire (memory aid).  It will give you a leg-up on how to “Act Like a Leader” and point number 15 will steer you in the right direction to “Think Like a Leader”.

Thanks to Ranger Up and The Rhino Den!


On Command

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canstockphoto6029083I would be remiss if I did not initiate my website with a reference to the military legend that had the greatest impact on my approach to command, General George Smith Patton.  He will undoubtedly be the first entry into my Book of Light, because his approach to command, his visionary grasp of mechanized warfare, ability to inspire his team, and the accomplishments of the formations under his command were truly incredible for their time.  Importantly, Patton was also a colourful and articulate leader whose musings were as lucid and insightful as they were plentiful.  Patton’s example offers great lessons in leadership that transcend generations and circumstance, so it comes as no surprise that the General is often quoted and referred to by scholars and gurus in the business world.  Patton truly possessed a genius for command.

But what is command?  Ask a dozen different military officers and you will get a dozen different answers.  If you really want to confuse them, ask them to define the over-used and under-understood term Command and Control!  For years even the NATO glossary AAP-6, if memory serves, added to the confusion by using the same definition for command as for control.  The following are the definitions that I have embraced:

Command: The responsibility to influence the successful outcome of events or accomplishment of goals.  It is the product of leadership, management and authority.

Control: The means — processes, organizational structures, technologies and doctrines — to manage the execution of missions or tasks.  You can load a whole bunch of things into this category, like staff, radio and written communications, standard operating procedures, chains of command and divisions of labour.  The list goes on and on, and it continues to grow as the means at our disposal to control organizations becomes increasingly sophisticated and effective.

Leadership is the focus of my study, but it is intrinsically linked to the study of Command.  I think an appropriate civilian term for command might be stewardship.  In my opinion leadership is too often confused with stewardship.  People continuously refer to the person in charge as a group’s “leader”, and I would submit it is technically wrong to do so.  It has been proven time and time again that the people at the helms of organizations — The Captain of the ship, if you will — does not always exhibit stellar leadership skills, by anybody’s definition of the term.  Yet, even ships that are poorly “led” seem to stay afloat.  That is because as long as a ship is adequately managed by way of the Captain’s personal skills in planning, organizing, delegating and supervising it can sail.  Even in the lack of those attributes personally, a Captain can keep his ship afloat by baderging and bullying his staff.

But when it comes to fighting the ship, that is when a “leader” in the truest sense of the word, at least by my definition, rises above the managers, supervisors, dictators and tyrants.  Followers of my blog must keep this very important premise in mind.  Gorilla Leadership is all about “the fight,” it is all about competition!

This blog is about that brand of leadership.  It is a brand that is born of battle, and well suited for true Captains of Industry.


The Command Model

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Command ModelCommand is comprised of three attributes.  These are Leadership, Management and Authority.  In the military authority is a non-consideration in command, because command appointments come with the authority of the National Defence Act and Canadian Forces Organizational Orders (if memory serves).  The authority in that context is very explicit.  Very often, however that authority is merely implied, as in small groups that go through the Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing stages as the influence of a “leader” emerges.

I like a definition of Leadership that I think is attributable to Henry Kissinger, that “Leadership is the act of making people do what they would not have otherwise done by themselves”.  I emphasize “that they would not have otherwise done themselves.”  I remember many, many years ago a leadership talk by Major General Lewis Mackenzie where his definition was very similar to that of Mr Kissinger’s but he added “and liking it”.  I struggled over that one for some time, but I don’t think that applies.  I believe that there are many iconic leaders in history that were hated but their troops but something compelled them to follow. I will examine that more later.

“Leadership: The act of making people do what they would not have otherwise done by themselves”

Leadership began as a preoccupation for me after I joined the military and aspired to command a platoon.  During my life in the military the talk about leadership was unceasing.  It started in basic officer training and was part of the fabric of daily life, consciously in dialogue and deed, and subconsciously for almost everything I did.  Of course in the Army the definition of leadership was the opinion of the senior officer present, and many of those opinions — IMHO —  were flawed.  Myths like “to be a good leader you have to be a good follower” and “‘Man Management’ is a misnomer for ‘leadership’” were thrown around with carefree abandon.  It seemed we blindly accepted them as truisms, at least did not see them challenged. I swallowed them in the short term, but was troubled by them.  I ended up defining in my own mind exactly what it a combat leader was all about and what behaviour I would have to abandon, modify or adopt in order to be successful in command.

Commonly, management, is defined as planning, organizing, delegating and supervising, or something similar.  Management and Leadership are very much Yin and Yang, distinct but inseparable.  The former is a science, the latter is an art.  If it can be measured it can be managed, but it is far more difficult to quantify the leadership component in any other way than the outcome.  In my opinion, in the world of organizational stewardship today there is a huge bias towards management-biased command.  I say “bias” because effective management is an command imperative, but while a management biased command style will get you to the top of an organization, it is unlikely that an organization commanded by a manager will win many compelling battles.





Sir Winston Leonard Churchill

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While General George Smith Patton was the role model to me as an aspiring combat leader, I think the most compelling leader of the 20th Century had to have been Sir Winston Churchill.  He also epitomizes many of the clichés that abound in the study of leadership that he has to rank up near the top of the list of leaders to emulate.  Churchill embodies everything that Gorilla Leadership stands for:  Critical and Creative Thinking, Courage, and contribution to the Community.

In terms of what he Nazis did for the community goes without saying.  Churchill was at the centre of everything that was going on in the Second World War and the attainment of Victory in Europe, and was instrumental in creating the peace and New World Order that was to follow.  He was also at the forefront of recognizing the emergence of Russia/the Soviet Union as the emerging threat to the long term peace and security of the West.  Although it is debatable whether Churchill actually coined the term “the Iron Curtain”, there is no doubt that he popularized it amongst Western Nations.  Immediately after the War against the Nazi’s he began issue dire warnings to the Western Power of the scourge that was setting upon Eastern Europe, Stalin and the Soviet Union. warning about the

It is worth noting up front that Sir Winnie was no stranger to failure.  His first foray in to politics prior to the First World War ended up in defeat. He held his share of key appointments in government subsequently, failing again as First Lord of the Admiralty when he was blamed for the failed Dardanelles campaign of Gallipoli fame.  But he bounced back again.  During his political career he changed party affiliations a couple of times, ran in different constituencies and still failed to get elected several times before he was to become Britain’s Prime Minister during the War years.  Strictly speaking he also failed at his first military mis-adventure when, as a war correspondent in the Boer War he was taken prisoner.  Notwithstanding his status as a non-combatant which afforded him more lenient treatment by his captors, Churchill had the tenacity to escape.

Churchill was no stranger to danger either.  He started in the military at a young age, experienced battle first hand as an observer during the Cuban War and subsequently in India and Sudan.  Not too long after choosing to go into politics was made scapegoat for the Dardanelles campaign gave up early on a career in the military, choosing to pursue a life of politics.  Rather than take up some token bureaucrat position he took over command of an infantry battalion.  Even as Prime Minister the famed British Bulldog could always be relied upon to be in the thick of things, whether is was amongst the people of London during the Blitz or on the Continent monitoring the progress of the War.

The tenacity that he displayed or honed in his early years set the conditions for his extraordinary success as the leader of the Western World in the Second World War.  One of Churchill’s detractions during the interwar years was that he was very hawkish.  While everyone else was naively hoping that the First World War was indeed “The War to end all wars” and, right up to the Prime Minister of the day, ignoring the clear and present danger that was being posed by Stalin and Hitler.  So with the desperate change of circumstance with the outbreak of the Second World War, the conditions were perfect for the emergence of a leader like the world has seldom seen.

Volumes have been written about the man and his legacy, many of them by the man himself.  His time in Office was limited after the VE Day; of course, because extraordinary leaders are a product of the times as much as their persona.  A lesser Leader would have drifted off into obscurity, the subject of study by academics and military pundits.  However, Churchill continued to be a respected man of the times, and the impact of his influence on the events of the Second World War and its aftermath affect us to this very day.  Such is the ray of light that Sir Winston Churchill has shed on my interpretation of Gorilla Leadership.