Jul 5, 2017
Summary & Ideas for Action
Retired Lieutenant General Frank Kearney works with the Thayer
Leader Development Group at West Point. In this discussion, he
covers his military and post-military career in leadership
development, and shares the wisdom of his experience in building
leadership within organizations. He stresses culture, selecting
leaders, training, communicating intent, and how intent is
reflected back so there is clear guidance. He talks about the
continual leadership training within the Army, and how those
principles of training apply to the corporate world. He mentions
Team Red, White & Blue and their work to help returning
veterans network and stay physically active and connected in
society. Listen in to learn more of how Special Forces and veterans
have leadership abilities that transfer well into the civilian
[2:43] Frank spent 35½ years in infantry, airborne, and in
Special Operations leadership. He praises the people he worked
with, especially the Ranger Regiment. He learned to be a good
soldier and a good leader, and he advanced to a level where he
could represent the organization in the Pentagon and in Congress.
Frank’s last assignment in the military was at the National
[4:31] When Frank left the military, he wanted to build leaders.
He sought out the Thayer Leader Development Group at West Point,
and asked for the opportunity to demonstrate a role as senior
advisor to help stitch programs together. He is able to work with a
lot of great companies in the United States, and to learn about
[5:59] Frank points to the cultural level of an organization as
the point where team dysfunctions start. When you set up a climate
of a leader development culture, then the tasks of picking the
right people, training them the right way, and adapting the
organization to today’s environment will all follow.
[7:00] Since 1775, the U.S. Army has processed every generation,
adapting to the environment around them, and giving every young man
and woman who stays past their first enlistment a leadership
opportunity. The Army is always building leaders focused on mission
and success, strategy, and resourcing for that strategy. The Army
uses assessment, selection, and training for mission success.
[10:12] Selection for Special Operations assumes a given number
of years of future service. In corporate America, employment is
at-will. Frank says people stay in special units because they love
the culture, the environment, the mission, and the camaraderie.
They are incentivized by purpose. Corporate leaders have the job to
create that climate and culture that will incentivize their
[14:15] Frank says the key to culture is to understand why you
are doing what you are doing. Know your mission and make your
culture. The military and business share a clear vision with a
clear purpose. Every organization has its purpose. Great
organizations have connected teams that share camaraderie and
vision. Frank talks about the purpose of Team RWB, giving veterans
purpose through physical training.
[20:51] Frank serves on the Threat Reduction Advisory Committee.
He speaks about the work they do. It involves the art of
influencing up, using his unique counterterrorism experience to
continue to serve the security of the country. People are more
aware of threats because they are more broadcast. We are in no
greater danger, but there is an ability to influence, alarm, and
excite people beyond the existing threat.
[27:35] Frank has been fortunate to serve on a lot of teams with
great men and women. He shares one team story from the invasion of
Panama. The night of December 20, 1989 went off like clockwork. It
was the result of years of planning, with late changes. In a
coup de main, the Special Forces hit so many targets the
first night that it overwhelmed the enemy. The intent had been
clear, and they succeeded.
[33:10] Frank talks about laying out intent, so the team is able
to act with purpose. Good strong leaders want to get in and help,
but should resist. They need to train the team, so the team can
plan, and brief leadership on their plan. The briefback allows
leaders to coach people back within the margin of risk. The three
keys to the leader development cycle are intent, briefback, and
coaching within the margin of risk.
[38:03] The military is a place to give back. Millennials also
want to give back to society at large. Frank sees a trend of
purpose among Millennials. They want to know why they are doing
things. Frank advises executives to treat them the way they want to
be treated, and communicate with them in the medium in which they
communicate. Leaders have a responsibility to learn how to connect
with their employees.
[41:20] Intent communicates two levels down — to your direct
reports, and then to their direct reports. This way, intent is
communicated to every level, and vertical alignment is in place.
The magic in intent is the immediate reflection back to you, “This
is what I heard.” Then you validate, or correct. People do not
always understand without reflecting back, and having it validated
LinkedIn: Frank K.
Facebook. Frank Kearney