OUR BLOG

LEADERSHIP

Ten Traits Of Organizationally Healthy Professional Service Firms
To Grow Your Professional Service Firm, Prize Culture Over Strategy
TP35: The One Tipping Point Mid-Size Service Firms Must Address To Keep Growing
Seven Reasons Most Mid-Size Service Firms Don’t Grow Very Much
Five Reasons Mid-Size Service Firms Need A New Leadership Operating Model
How Leaders Can Address The Growth Tipping Point For Mid-Sized Service Firms
Five Reasons Professional Service Leaders Should Prize EQ Over IQ
Why Mid-Size Service Firm Leadership Teams Need Collective Objectives To Grow
How To Grow Your Mid-Sized Service Firm: Jealously Protect Your Focused Energy
Why Professional Service Firms Should Consider Circle Of Seven Mentoring Networks
How A Leader’s Energy Field Impacts Team Productivity
Don’t Trade Misery For Money: How Professional Service Firms Can Leverage The Great Resignation
Strong Personality Vs. Strong Person: The Makeup Of A Leadership Council
Custer Or Marshall: Why Mid-Size Service Firms Must Choose Their Leadership Model
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Define And Defend Your Values
If You Want To Grow Your Mid-Size Service Firm, Establish A Formal Leadership Council
Want To Grow Your Professional Service Firm? Focus On The One
If You Want To Grow Your Midsize Professional Service Firm, Align Your Leaders
Why Midsize Service Firm Leaders Must Think Like Entrepreneurs To Grow
How To Grow A Mid-Size Professional Service Firm Today
Why It's Important For Great Leaders To Tell Great Stories
How Great Leaders Persuade Using Word-Pictures
How The Say-Do Ratio Influences Trusted Advisor Status And Profits
Why Service Firm Leaders Should Nurture The Entrepreneurial Instincts Of Their Top People

SALES

Five Strategies For Midsize Service Firms To Break Through Revenue Plateaus
How Pro Service Firms Can Fix The ‘Drop Everything — Chase Money’ Problem
Prospect, Originate, Navigate: How To Fill Your Professional Service Pipeline
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Think Carefully About Your Promise
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1
How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn
Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits
How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
Nurture Organic Relationships Online
How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough

MARKETING

How To Market Managed Services - Part 3
How To Market Managed Services - Part 2
How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1
Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy
Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?
Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack
The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
Why You Need A Generous Brand
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Five Digital Marketing KPIs
Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
Content Registrations Are Not Enough
Is Your Website Open For Business
How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
Who Benefits From Your Content?
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
How To Nurture Ideal Prospects

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CUSTER OR MARSHALL: WHY MID-SIZE SERVICE FIRMS MUST CHOOSE THEIR LEADERSHIP MODEL

HOW YOUR LEADERSHIP TENDENCIES IMPACT YOUR OUTCOMES

Originally published on Forbes.com

George Custer was an American military general known for dashing action. During the Civil War, he earned the admiration of his peers because of his bravery and willingness to take risks. George Marshall was an American military general known for being methodical, thoughtful and disciplined. After WWII, he earned the respect of the entire world, and particularly of Europeans, because of the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt major portions of European infrastructure.

Why do I bring up these two leaders? I find that they serve as archetypes of two very different leadership models. For the past 23 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of leaders of professional service firms. I’ve noticed the tendencies among a wide-ranging group of professionals from all walks of life. It seems to me that no matter how they were raised, how much success they’ve had or how hard they’ve struggled, they are constantly choosing, often unconsciously, between two approaches to leadership:

  • Ready-fire-aim.
  • Ready-aim-fire.

George Custer was a ready-fire-aim type of leader. In the end, this cost him his own life and the lives of his men. The battle of Little Big Horn is a classic example of underestimating the odds. Custer surmised that his small fighting force would somehow be able to defeat a much larger opposing force of Native American fighters. Call it arrogance. Call it racism. Call it poor judgment.

George Marshall is an example of ready-aim-fire. His methodical and painstaking approach to rebuilding the destroyed infrastructure of Europe actually took many years to complete. It required coordination and the development of clarity-of-purpose with many different types of professionals, many of whom were not military: architects, engineers, builders and financiers. But in the end, his planning and steadfast commitment to completing the mission blessed the lives of millions of people.

So when you think about these two leadership models, where do you lean? Are you more of a ready-fire-aim type of leader or a ready-aim-fire leader? Here’s why I ask. The leadership model you lean toward will likely be an indicator of your outcomes.

Not An Either-Or Proposition

I don’t want to give the impression that a person of action, like Custer, is always wrong. There are many situations in business where we don’t have to know all the details to take bold action. In fact, nearly every client I’ve worked with has operated with blind spots, imperfect information and faulty assumptions. Even so, they managed to produce some outstanding results. But it’s the tendency I want to foreground.

If your tendency is to make decisive action your default, the tool you most frequently reach for in your bag, it’s probably only a matter of time before this catches up with you. I’ve seen it time and time again. Leaders who make decisions based on gut instinct and who ignore information and counselors who could help them make better decisions sooner or later get hurt—and usually, the people on their teams get hurt too.

Over the years, I’ve heard leaders say things like “I could make that decision blindfolded” or “are we engaged in analysis-paralysis here?” Their point is usually that they want to get on with it. Make a decision and go. There’s no time to wait.

In my experience, that’s rarely true. Over the last several months, I’ve spent time thinking through costly decisions my clients and other mid-size service firms I know about have made. Those decisions did not work out. People suffered. Jobs were lost. Careers were damaged. Investments went down the drain.

As I analyze the post-mortem decision-making from these situations, I’m struck by one overarching impression. No action would have been better than the action they chose. So why did they do it? Because they had a tendency toward ready-fire-aim. Their preferred leadership model failed them.

The Methodical Character

One of the primary reasons I think some leaders lean toward ready-fire-aim is because it’s sexy. Custer was dashing and full of bravado. The newspapers loved him. Stories were written about him. I think it’s safe to say that he believed in his own methodology.

But Marshall was very different. This is well documented in a great book by NY Times columnist David L. Brooks called The Road To Character. Brooks devotes an entire chapter to Marshall. He describes how Marshall could have been the leader of the D-Day invasion—instead of Eisenhower—if only Marshall would have asked for it.

Marshall refused to do that. He believed his record as a leader spoke for itself. If the powers that be chose him to lead the D-Day invasion, that was fine with him. But if they chose others, he respected that decision, too. He wouldn’t compromise his integrity, his disciplined character, by overstepping his bounds. He knew he was a capable leader and that was enough for him.

His character, his moral judgment and his sense of integrity shaped the decisions he made once WWII was over. He knew that the seeds of WWII were planted at the end of WWI. It was his calculus that the best way to prevent WWIII was to rebuild Europe, including nations that the U.S. deemed enemies during the war.

The Marshall Plan, at the end of the day, was about logistics, not military tactics. It was the boring stuff of getting people, materials and locations aligned and prepared to do hard work. There were no brave heroics. There was a lot of quiet planning and execution of those plans. But the results speak for themselves.

So which type of leader are you: ready-fire-aim or ready-aim-fire? As I reflect on the leaders I’ve worked with who’ve had the greatest long-term success, without a doubt, they were ready-aim-fire people. Most of the leaders who leaned toward ready-fire-aim ended up sowing chaos amongst the ranks. Some even went out of business.

As leaders, we all have tendencies. But we can improve our outcomes by carefully reflecting on the leadership models we prize. A bit of reflection might just help you win more consistently.

About The Author

Randy Shattuck is a seasoned entrepreneur who works hand-in-hand with senior leaders of mid-size professional service firms to grow revenues, acquire clients, open new markets, increase profits and effectively position their brands.

OUR BLOG

LEADERSHIP

Ten Traits Of Organizationally Healthy Professional Service Firms
To Grow Your Professional Service Firm, Prize Culture Over Strategy
TP35: The One Tipping Point Mid-Size Service Firms Must Address To Keep Growing
Seven Reasons Most Mid-Size Service Firms Don’t Grow Very Much
Five Reasons Mid-Size Service Firms Need A New Leadership Operating Model
How Leaders Can Address The Growth Tipping Point For Mid-Sized Service Firms
Five Reasons Professional Service Leaders Should Prize EQ Over IQ
Why Mid-Size Service Firm Leadership Teams Need Collective Objectives To Grow
How To Grow Your Mid-Sized Service Firm: Jealously Protect Your Focused Energy
Why Professional Service Firms Should Consider Circle Of Seven Mentoring Networks
How A Leader’s Energy Field Impacts Team Productivity
Don’t Trade Misery For Money: How Professional Service Firms Can Leverage The Great Resignation
Strong Personality Vs. Strong Person: The Makeup Of A Leadership Council
Custer Or Marshall: Why Mid-Size Service Firms Must Choose Their Leadership Model
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Define And Defend Your Values
If You Want To Grow Your Mid-Size Service Firm, Establish A Formal Leadership Council
Want To Grow Your Professional Service Firm? Focus On The One
If You Want To Grow Your Midsize Professional Service Firm, Align Your Leaders
Why Midsize Service Firm Leaders Must Think Like Entrepreneurs To Grow
How To Grow A Mid-Size Professional Service Firm Today
Why It's Important For Great Leaders To Tell Great Stories
How Great Leaders Persuade Using Word-Pictures
How The Say-Do Ratio Influences Trusted Advisor Status And Profits
Why Service Firm Leaders Should Nurture The Entrepreneurial Instincts Of Their Top People

SALES

Five Strategies For Midsize Service Firms To Break Through Revenue Plateaus
How Pro Service Firms Can Fix The ‘Drop Everything — Chase Money’ Problem
Prospect, Originate, Navigate: How To Fill Your Professional Service Pipeline
To Grow Your Mid-Size Professional Service Firm, Think Carefully About Your Promise
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 7
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 6
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 5
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 4
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 3
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 2
How To Sell Professional Services Today – Part 1
How Mid-Size Service Firms Can Acquire Great New Clients On LinkedIn
Five Ways The Consultative Sale Improves Profits
How To Win The Complex Service Sale Consistently
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
How To Break The Grip Of Rainmaker Culture
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
How To Know When Prospects Are Ready
How To Pull Prospects Into Conversations
Nurture Organic Relationships Online
How To Build Relationships With Jaded Prospects
Do Prospects Want To Buy Or Be Sold?
Close Deals Faster Using Proof Statements
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough

MARKETING

How To Market Managed Services - Part 3
How To Market Managed Services - Part 2
How To Market Managed Services Today – Part 1
Why Service Firms Need A Multichannel Digital Marketing Strategy
Does Your Website Attract Ideal Clients?
Why Service Firms Need The Ultimate Digital Marketing Stack
The Myth Of The Time-Starved Service Buyer
Do You Choose Clients Or Do They Choose You?
How To Market & Sell Professional Services Today
Why You Need A Generous Brand
How Content Impacts The Service Sale
Are You Measuring Your Time Funnel?
How To Get Mindshare With Busy Decision-Makers
How To Get Great Prospects Leaning In
How Digital Marketing Creates Sales Funnel Velocity
Five Digital Marketing KPIs
Do Your Users Experience Content Regret?
Content Registrations Are Not Enough
Is Your Website Open For Business
How To Build A Great Digital Marketing Plan
Digital Marketing Perfect For Complex Sales – Part 2
Digital Marketing Is Perfect For The Complex Sale
The Value Of An Idea Driven Website
Who Benefits From Your Content?
Your Best New Client Is Looking For You
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 3
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 2
Why Service Firms Should Focus On Ideal Clients– Part 1
How To Get The Greatest Value From Content Marketing
Why You Should Absolutely Give Away Your Best Ideas
Do This to Fill Your Sales Funnel
What You Must Do To Acquire New Clients
An Audience Of One
How to Attract New Ideal Clients
Are You A Content Marketer Or A Thought Leader?
Consider The Source: Theorist Or Practitioner
Why Pain Points Are Not Enough
How To Nurture Ideal Prospects