The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it is far better to have a team that is aligned to its values, committed to an outcome, and where the people care for each other, rather than to have someone who is very smart and capable, but is actually toxic to the entire team. During the later part of my SAF career, I had to make a very hard decision to remove a very bright and talented individual from my team. He was intellectually gifted, visionary about the direction of our work but had little or no regard for those who were less gifted intellectually, not aligned with his view and had on multiple occasions been seen to lack the morale courage to admit to his errors of judgement or actions. This was exceptionally toxic, especially so when he was also senior in Rank. He would ridicule and demean others, and was never open to feedback or making efforts to change. It was a tough decision; there was a loss in domain expertise within the team, but we made up for it by applying ourselves, sharing and learning together, while I recruited another individual who had the prerequisite intellectual grounding in the subject matter and who was much better in personality and character. The teamwork that emerged thereafter allowed us to realise more enduring outcomes.
I’ve made it a point to live and lead consistently with the values I espouse. As leaders, we need to have the moral courage to make decisions that are aligned to the Organisational Values, which should be aligned to yours too as a leader. Looking back through the years, people may not have liked me for my style of leading that has been described as being very harsh, very demanding and insensitive to people’s feelings but I can safely say that I was respected for my consistency in the living my values and that of the SAF through the decisions I made. I think this to be true, but if I did fail in this area then it is a failure that can lead to an erosion of TRUST.