Leadership AND Life & Death: Conversation with a revolutionary

Sometimes as leaders we feel like the decisions we make are huge.  ‘Scared to death’ we might say… ‘It kills me to do this…’

What if the implications of your everyday decisions really were life and death?

Min Thein’s first leadership role was as guerilla fighter – he prefers the term ‘revolutionary’ – leading 20 men fighting for democracy for Burma. Now leading an applications development team in the Australian Public Service, this history provides interesting and poignant reflections on leadership, life and death.

As a leader you need to earn trust and respect. You do the hard jobs;  you give up food… And then later you don’t need to do this anymore because the trust is built.  Then people don’t want to see a leader they believe in making these sacrifices. Teamwork just happens. People look after each other.

Motivating people to put their life on the line every day is difficult. Belief in the cause is the main factor.  My people Burmese Geurillas_Sbelieved in democracy and overthrowing the military dictatorship, and they came to that from different backgrounds. Some cared about politics. Some saw their parents killed or their village torched.  You need to get the beliefs all aligned to the same cause, and this is the challenge for the leader.

Sometimes beliefs can be overwhelmed in a short time.  When you see the fighting for the first time, it’s so scary.  You can forget your beliefs and you want to choose the easy way. Leaders must support people through this.

And keep in mind the future. If we win this war, what will happen? Imagine that, and hold it in your mind and your heart.

When you loose someone as a leader, it’s a nightmare. Wrong decisions and a group will survive…

Once to save the whole group I had to leave one soldier. I keep replaying that image. Mostly I comfort myself that I made the right decision and saved the group. And then other times I punish myself that I am a bad leader – I made the decision and he died. It hurts. You never loose that until you die yourself.

In a battle things happen in seconds. The outcomes of your decisions will be known in a minute. You need to make brave decisions.

How would you lead if you embraced some revolutionary spirit?

Have an extraordinary day