The Q takes Individual Initiative and fosters it in other Leaders
Sua sponte is Latin for “of his own accord”
In the law, a judge acts sua sponte when he exercises his inherent authority to make a ruling without a petition to do so. He takes the initiative to act on his own accord.
The motto of the United State’s Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment is “Sua Sponte”. It is a recognition that to become an elite Ranger a man must be a triple volunteer: first the Army, then Airborne School and finally the Ranger Regiment. Rangers aren’t drafted, they must make the choice for themselves—three times. They take the initiative to act on their own.
F3 applies the concept of acting on one’s own accord to Leadership through the taking of Individual Initiative (I2 for short) in furtherance of Outcome. F3 calls this Sua Sponte Leadership
The Q is not just a Leader who takes responsibility for the Outcome. He also exercises Sua Sponte Leadership to realize Advantage for his Group, in that he initiates Movement toward Outcome in the absence of directive authority. In other words, the Q is that rare man who will Lead with or without another Leader to direct him. He is That Somebody .
F3 could not function without Q’s willing to be That Somebody
F3 is an Organization that was created in to invigorate male Leadership in Charlotte, the Community of which we were Members. We did it without any authority delegated from an existing Organization or a request from our Community. We acted on our own accord, without being told or asked to do it. The Movement we initiated toward this Outcome was driven by our identification of dormant male Leadership as a Problem that could and must be solved in our Community.
We didn’t realize it at the time, because we lacked a Leadership philosophy, but we were acting sua sponte. Our decision to start F3 wasn’t founded upon a belief that we had the freedom to do so—that no one could stop us. Rather, it came from an obligation to do so—that no one would start us (if we didn’t start ourselves). Thus, it was an initiative born of duty not right.
This sense of duty we felt to other men in our Community, to something outside of ourselves, is at the heart of Sua Sponte Leadership. A judge rules without petition from his duty toward the ends of justice. A Ranger volunteers three times to do a very dirty, difficult and dangerous job from his hard-wired duty to protect the Communities that comprise his nation. The Q, in his Development of Dynamic Teams, Influences men to Movement to accomplish the Mission because he sees it as his duty to do so. If the result is a success, he passes the praise to his Team Members. If it is a Failure, he shoulders the blame and gleans Wisdom from the experience that he passes to younger Leaders through Positive Habit Transfer.
Within most Organizations Sua Sponte Leadership is rare because I2 doesn’t just happen
I2 must be actively fostered, and that only happens in a Lizard where Leaders see it as their duty to do so. And a Lizard is rare.
In a Bullfrog (which is the form of the vast majority of Organizations) I2 is not fostered, but discouraged. A Bullfrog is an Institution that seeks existential continuity above all else. Focused on maintenance of the Status Quo, it is hostile to any type of Movement that might threaten it and punishes I2 within its ranks.
In a Leech, where no good deed goes unpunished, the concept of I2 itself is nonsensical. There, it is every man for himself. There is no reason to take any action other than hide for self-protection
Only in a Lizard, where the Effective accomplishment of the Organization’s Articulated Purpose is paramount, will there be a Leadership Development Process that actively fosters the I2 that Sua Sponte Leadership requires. To do so, the Leader must provide three things to emerging Leaders:
FIRST: Make Clear The Mission (the what and the why)
To take action in furtherance of his Group’s Mission without specific direction, a Leader must have a very clear understanding of the Purpose the Group is seeking to realize. To be Dynamic, every Member of the Team must be rowing the boat in the same direction, and that cannot logically happen unless each man knows where the Team is heading.
When I joined the Infantry one of the first things I was taught was that Organization’s overarching Mission: to close with and destroy the enemy. The Army trains and deploys the Infantry to close with and destroy the enemy. That is why we, as an Organization, existed. To be lethal. As an Infantry officer, a Leader within that Organization, those seven simple words told me everything I needed to know about our what and why.
But the how of being lethal was left largely to me. The Army trained me in the skills necessary to be an Infantry Officer, but left the how of training my platoon to me. I was charged with the duty to determine the best method of training the men who formed my Team to perform the Tasks necessary to close with and destroy the enemy. Broadly speaking, those Tasks fell into three categories: shoot, move and communicate. Ultimately, to be lethal we had to continually Accelerate our skill in shooting, moving and communicating.
Some of the I2 measures I took in furtherance of the Infantry’s Mission succeeded, but many were Failures, from which I learned Wisdom. To pass that Wisdom on (so no one else would have to re-learn it), I wrote it down as an SOP (Standing Operating Procedure) for my Team to use as a handbook. No superior officer authorized or directed me to do that, but I believed that it would make my platoon more lethal both while I was the leader and after I had gone. Because it furthered the Mission of the Organization, I initiated Movement by I2.
Thirty years later I found myself to be a Member of a very different type of Organization, a church. Because I am a Leader, and trained to Lead the way I had been, I sought to understand the church’s Mission so that I could act in furtherance of it just in the same way I had in the military. I assumed that my church would have me Develop Dynamic Teams in furtherance of its Articulated Purpose—to be lethal, only in a different way.
I found that my church’s stated Mission was to be a spiritual home for all people. This Mission was problematic in three ways.
• First, it was premised upon the verb to be rather than a verb to do. Unlike the Infantry’s Mission, which specified two clear Tasks (close with and destroy), the church’s Mission did not call for any specific action. It asked nothing of itself other than to exist.
• Second, in describing its Purpose in terms of a status (to be) rather than an action (to do), the church self-identified as a Community rather than an Organization. Since a Community requires nothing more of its Membership than to obey its rules and mores, the church asked nothing of its Members other than to participate in the church’s existence.
• Finally, as a HIM hard-wired to seek Advantage for my Groups, the church’s Mission provided me no direction in which to Move. Because it did not tell me what the Organization did and why it did it, there was no way for me to discern how to do it. I could not seek Outcomes in furtherance of a Mission that was not made me clear to me. Thus, the church asked nothing of its Leaders.
Ultimately, I left that church, not because I did not like the other Members or its message but because it asked nothing of itself, nothing of its Members and nothing of me. It could not be a Community because its Members were not Proximate and was not an Effective Organization because it was not Purposeful. It was either a Bullfrog (which has no use for a Leader) or a club (which is no place for a HIM).
The first step in fostering I2 is to make the Mission clear to the Group’s Leadership. Without that, there will be no Sua Sponte Leaders.
SECOND: Teach All You Know (the knowhow)
Knowing what to do and why to do it through the clear expression of the Group’s Mission is an essential component of I2. But it is not enough. To act in furtherance of the Mission, the Q must have the know-how to do it—he needs to be taught what a Leader is and does through an LDP (Leadership Development Process).
To ask a man to Lead without providing a LDP is what F3 calls Bricks Without Straw. Leadership is a skill that must be deliberately taught through Schooling, Apprenticeship, Opportunity and Failure. The Q, having learned to be what a Leader is and do what a Leader does through a LDP, knows that there must be a vibrant LDP for his Community to be healthy and his Organizations to be Effective. If no LDP exists, he takes the I2 to create one.
Groups with Effective LDPs disseminate the lessons of Leadership in three primary ways.
• Rally. A Rally is a Group meeting where a speaker gives a broad description of a tenet of the Group’s Leadership philosophy. A Rally does not presume that the participants are well versed in the philosophy, recognizing that there may be attendees that are FNGs. In fact, one purpose of a Rally is to give Members the opportunity to recruit FNGs and inspire them to Movement toward the Group’s Purpose. Often (but not necessarily) the speaker at a Rally will be a man from a distant location who is well versed in the Group’s Leadership philosophy.
A Rally is like a pep rally for a high school football team.
• Grinder. A Grinder is a periodic meeting between Team Members to become more Effective. There is no maximum number, but 18 is probably a good rule of thumb for the leading edge of too big. Grinders are comprised of Members who have some degree of working knowledge of the Group’s Leadership philosophy which they are seeking to improve. Grinders are led by Proximate Group Members. Unlike Rallies, they are periodic—weekly often being an effective frequency.
A Grinder is like a high school football practice.
• Whetstone. A Whetstone is a meeting between two men, one of whom is a more experienced Leader (the Stone) than the other (the Blade). The Purpose of the Whetstone is the deliberate Positive Habit Transfer from Stone to Blade of the Leadership Skills and Characteristics that comprise what a Leader is and what a Leader does. Like Grinders, Whetstones must be periodic—every three to four weeks being an effective frequency.
A Whetstone is like a one-on-one meeting between coach and player.
It is through Rallies, Grinders and Whetstones that Lizard Leaders drive the LDP throughout their Organizations and HIM ensure that their Communities grow Effective Leaders. It is the straw that makes brick-making possible.
THIRD: Incentivize Initiative and Manage Failure (putting I2 into practice)
Knowing what to do (through the clear Mission) and how to do it (through the LDP) gives the Q two of the three components of what he needs to foster I2. The last piece of the puzzle is Incentive. Incentive comes in two forms: Carrots and Sticks, the former rewarding Virtuous behavior and the latter punishing its absence.
To Incentivize I2 the Q must reward it with Carrots every time a Member exhibits it, even if (especially if) it results in Failure. Most Groups get this completely wrong, by rewarding success regardless of how it occurs and punishing I2 whenever it Fails.
Picture a high school basketball coach who has taught his point guard to call a particular play under a particular circumstance. In the waning moments of a game with his team down by a single point (and no timeouts), the guard takes the I2 to call the right play and runs it properly, resulting in an open layup that he misses.
If the coach is a Q, he praises the guard for his I2 and manages the Failure of losing by scheduling the entire Team for more layup practice. The result will be a point guard who will take I2 the next time—because the Carrots of the coach’s praise Incentivize him to do so. With that (and the extra layup practice) the Team will be more Dynamic.
If the coach is not a Q, he throws his hands up in frustration when the layup bangs off the rim and says “how many times have I told you men to practice your layups?” At practice the next week the point guard does extra wind sprints for missing the shot. With no Carrots for the I2 and Sticks for missing the layup, the point guard will not put himself in position to Fail the next time. He will be passive and the Team will be less Dynamic.
Now, consider a different scenario. Despite knowing the Mission (to call a particular play) and being taught how to do it by the Coach, the point guard doesn’t call anything, dribbles himself into the corner and heaves up a prayer with :01 left on the clock. Somehow, the shot falls through the net and the Team wins.
If the coach is a Q, he enjoys the victory but disregards the success as a bit of luck that is unlikely to be repeated. He reinforces the Mission (to call the right play) with the point guard to make sure he knows how and when to call it. He does not reward the made shot with Carrots, because that would provide the wrong Incentive and the Team would become less Dynamic.
If the coach is not a Q, he screams Noooooo as the ball leaves the guard’s hands and arches through the air, right up to the moment that it splashes through the net—and then he yells YES! Caught up on the Happiness of winning, the coach Incentives the wrong behavior (of heaving up a prayer instead of calling the right play). The result will be more prayers and less wins and the Team will be less Dynamic.
To foster I2, the Q must reward it with Carrots every time he sees it and manage the Failures that will often result as the Leader sharpens his skills. He must also resist the temptation to reverse-Incentivize unwanted behavior by rewarding success that results by accident.
To elevate the fostering of I2 over the immediate effect of Outcome in this way requires a degree of self-discipline that can only be summoned by a Q who himself is Accelerating through his DRP and focusing upon Joy rather than Happiness. A man overcome by his Jester or in the midst of relationship malpractice with his wife (for example) will lack the required stability of character to maintain that kind of discipline. His lack of self-control makes him like a city without walls.
Through the fostering of I2, the Q develops other Qs who practice Sua Sponte Leadership, who in turn develop Qs through the fostering of I2. In this way, the Q conducts Positive Habit Transfer not only to the men in his Groups with whom he enjoyed Proximity, but men he has never met—even men who were not yet born on the day he draws his last breath.
This is how the Q leaves his Legacy. He plants the roots of a Leadership tree with branches that will extend forever, even though the whispering leaves that grow upon it may never speak his name. Legacy is about what a man does, his IMPACT, not his postmortem reputation. A Q’s Legacy isn’t defined by the statues erected in his name, but the flesh and blood of the men into whom he poured.
It is human nature for a man to desire recognition for his work. But the length of the shadow we cast depends not only on how high we stand, but also on the brightness of the sun that happens to shine upon us at a given moment. A man can only control the former—the latter he must trust to devine providence. Thus, whether we are remembered in the vein of an Abraham Lincoln or simply take our place under the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier is not our concern. Our concern is only that we become and develop Virtuous Leaders.
That is our Legacy.