Kellogg Insights has an interesting feature this month on situational leadership, drawing on an interview with Colonel Brian Halloran, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Senior Fellow at the Kellogg School of Management. Here is an excerpt:
In the U.S. Army, becoming an effective situational leader—understanding that where you stand is where you sit—is accomplished through a “Two Up/Two Down” model.
“When I get my assignment, I not only have to understand my mission,” Halloran says. “I’ve got to understand my boss’s mission—and my boss’s boss’s mission—and where my goals fit into that. What that does is it helps prevent me doing something that works great at my level but ends up causing a bigger problem for the overall organization.”
By the same token, becoming versed in the goals and responsibilities of your direct reports—and their direct reports—acts to open communication and increase strategic alignment throughout the organization.
“When you’re circulating and getting to know people in your organization two levels down, you have a better flow of information,” Halloran says. “You can make sure that people understand why certain tasks are being asked to be done, where it fits in the big picture, and how we’re all actually going to benefit.”
I love the Two Up/Two Down rule. It should be a regular facet of our decision-making processes. We have to understand the goals and interests of those above and below us in the organizational hierarchy if we are to make sound decisions that can be executed successfully.