Wisdom: Heat Shields Cooled by Horns?

 

Two bits of leadership advice learned in the school of hard knocks: “Be a heat shield, not a heat conductor, for your people,” and “if you aren’t tooting your own horn, some else will use it for a siphon.” (Heard from an Iron Major.)

Leaders must act as heat shields from outside friction and flames. Those who just pass criticism and complaints along, or amplify them, are no good to anyone. Heat conductor leaders are worse than redundant to their superiors, not taking the heat as a signal to plan and direct a course correction. Such leaders may be seen as puppets, and possibly cowards, by their own people. In any healthy organization, peers see the heat conductor failing to absorb the heat that comes everyone’s way occasionally. So, be a heat shield, not a heat conductor, for your people.

But every heat shield has a failure point, so just absorbing heat is not enough. Heat shields must be able to radiate away heat and may need cooling periods to sustain effectiveness. Since heat comes from real or perceived shortfalls in missions or metrics, a good leader is interested in what interests his boss and is very interested in what interests her boss. Both substance, and terms or turns of phrase used by bosses, inform a perceptive leader’s internal unit planning, directing, and correcting. Understanding your boss and boss’s boss is necessary, but not sufficient, to lower the heat.

Bosses are busy people and are dealing with heat from other sources. They cannot be expected to read minds, or even the latest spreadsheet or multiple-slide presentation. At the same time, in an organization of any size, there is competition for resources. So, a struggling unit within the organization can find itself losing out to peer units. This is where the image of a horn and a siphon comes in.

Think about it: you can blow through the mouthpiece and produce sound, or someone else can pick up the horn you set down, and start sucking up resources from your people. Blow your horn confidently, communicating a credible plan for progress in terms your boss, and your boss’s boss, prefer. Blow your horn steadily, communicating credible progress on the organization’s metrics. And, give the bosses memorable riffs to repeat to their audiences by having sharp members of your little band step up and toot their own success solos inside your song. Toot your own horn to cool the heat shield you hold over your people.

Published in Group Writing
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 9 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Interesting. I woke up this morning to a cat’s dancing on me, which wasn’t such a bad thing, since I was having a dream that I was working for a certain car company and had had two different bosses call me on the carpet for not doing things that I had not been told I could do or how to do them. After returning to my cube, I had to get something from my car. The office was a maze, and I determined that I was going to figure out a sure way to find my cube for once. As I traced around, I found a cube with my name, but realized it was not the same cube. I said something to the people nearby, and someone pointed at another cube with my name on it, and it still wasn’t the right cube. The bosses in the dream were definitely heat conductors. Sure am glad I’ve been self-employed (again) for over ten years. I may have to absorb all the heat, but at least it is for stuff I do or don’t do, and not part of some mega-corp Game of Thrones.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under April’s theme of The Course of Wisdom. If you’ve picked up some wisdom over the years and would like to share it with us (names can be changed to protect the guilty), our schedule and sign-up sheet is waiting for you with plenty of upcoming openings, such as tomorrow and the next day, and in fact, the next seven days in a row. Please save me from having to come up with that much wisdom. It’s a lighter burden that is shared.

    • #1
  2. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Good advice and good visuals. 

    • #2
  3. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Oh, thanks a lot, Brown!  Now I’m going to be thinking about this all Spring and I won’t get any work done. 

    [All kidding aside…Man!  Them’s powerful insights.  Kind of knocked me over.  And I wasn’t going to get much work done anyway.]

    • #3
  4. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Great advice. It gets at problems people in middle management face every day. 

    • #4
  5. SecondBite Member
    SecondBite
    @SecondBite

    Somewhere over the years I heard that one of the universal job descriptions is to keep your boss’s boss off your boss’s back.  Kind of similar.

    • #5
  6. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    Clifford A. Brown: Leaders must act as heat shields from outside friction and flames. Those who just pass criticism and complaints along, or amplify them, are no good to anyone.

    In a previous job, I expressed this view to senior management, albeit less artfully than you have. It was not well received. Needless to say, I ignored their protestations and continued to protect my people from flak. Much later I left the organization over creative differences, as I like to say. More prosaically, I just didn’t like the way they treated the rank-and-file.

    • #6
  7. AltarGirl Member
    AltarGirl
    @CM

    Now to apply it to parenting… because mom’s and primary care givers are middle management…

    • #7
  8. Jeff Petraska Member
    Jeff Petraska
    @JeffPetraska

    Someone told me many years ago, “If you don’t toot your own horn, someone will turn it upside down and use it for a funnel.”

     

    • #8
  9. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Jeff Petraska (View Comment):

    Someone told me many years ago, “If you don’t toot your own horn, someone will turn it upside down and use it for a funnel.”

     

    I may have mentally swapped funnel and siphon.

    • #9
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.