“Well friend they told me you were dead, the news broadcast your funeral, 500 channels focused in.”-Thrice
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years is there are only two types of people when it comes to a team (of any kind): assets and liabilities. It’s pretty cut and dry with no room for a grey area. If you’re not one, you’re the other. That’s the way I’ve always ran my teams. This concept applies to all manner of occupations, not just the SOF/PMC/LEO realm.
Liabilities are those on the team that will get everyone in trouble or even killed. They’re the ones that can’t be bothered to be professionals. They gaff off training, don’t hold themselves to any form of a standard, and are always quick to delegate blame for their inadequacies. I’ve heard liabilities referred to as “leadership challenges”. That’s usually a term that comes down from higher. “He is a leadership challenge” is a phrase I’ve had slung my way occasionally in my years. At first, I always took it for face value, dug deep, and tried to find the best way to meet this “challenge.” Later on, it hit me that referring to my liability as a “leadership challenge” was a way to wash their hands of the problem and delicately put the burden on MY shoulders. “So and so isn’t up to standard, It’s Grifter’s problem.” This practice is typically bad leadership. Instead of placing the liability someplace they can better be utilized, like the police shed, a leader would be stuck with it, tossing a wrench in the gears of a machine that’s supposed to run like a Swiss clock.
We have all seen this, either around the ready room or the water cooler. There is always that guy that just can’t cut it. It takes measures of talent and desire and they have neither one, but here they are, on your team. They’re the one that doesn’t contribute to the project and complains about the job incessantly. This cat always shows up late and ducks out early. This is the cop on the force that won’t train on his own because “the department should provide it” or “I manage to qual and I don’t get overtime for training.” It’s the medic that is across the street from a call and slinks away from it because he “didn’t hear the radio.” They see themselves as a separate entity, apart from the team. This “leadership challenge” is actually challenging the entire team and graciously providing extra slack that needs to be taken up. The liability is the lowest denominator in a unit and drags everyone down by proxy. If your leadership is unwilling to acknowledge the difference between an asset and a liability, that speaks volumes about which one THEY are. They should want what’s best for their teams, not just fill slots with bodies.
This isn’t to say that everyone on a team is perfect and the best at every task they’re handed. Some people are better at some things than others. I generally try to give people the benefit of the doubt and find SOME redeeming quality in them. However, if I’m running a team of shooters, and I have a guy that can’t shoot to save his life, and doesn’t care, but is funny and a really good spades partner, there’s not much I can do with him. But if I have a guy that isn’t the best shot, but is willing to put in the time and work to improve AND the homie is good with radios, well my friends, he is indeed an asset. Someone with the talent and desire but not the skill, THAT is a leadership challenge and one that should be tackled with enthusiasm. Skills can be taught, attitude can’t.
An asset is someone that goes the extra mile, learns as much as they can about their craft, practices and trains, even if it costs THEM, and always has the team in mind when making a decision. Give me a someone with the desire to learn and do their best to not let the team down. Give me a professional. Give me someone that may not be the very best at something, but works hard to get there. An asset owns up to their mistakes and takes accountability for his short-comings and works to fix them. You can usually find them, doing whatever it takes to improves and learn everything about his job. You have to WANT and WORK to be an asset.
So, when you wake up to head back to the grind Monday, take a good look in the mirror and decide whether you’re going to be an asset….or a “leadership challenge.”