Today, Ann & Jim are with me. We are being with a number of BTL clients. Ann & Jim are telling a short version of their story. I’m the happiest observer in the history of observers. The long, worthy read is available in Ann’s book, American Spartan. Here’s a taste. Did I mention how happy I am today, simply being with…
Back in February 2012 she and Jim move into a Pashtun village in the most deadly mountain range on the planet – the Konar Province, Afghanistan. They were one mountain range away from the Lone Survivor moment. They are here because Jim has written a paper, One Tribe at a Time, and General Petraeus reads it and thinks it just might work. So, General Petraeus sends Jim and 8 enlisted men into this deadly region to test his theory. Be careful what you ask for.
The leadership challenge was enormous as the number of tasks kept growing. Jim couldn’t make a dent in the number of to do’s. Constant combat. He is in fire fights daily, leads his team (8 Green Beret’s plus hundreds of Jim trained tribesmen) and communicates and cares for the Afghans villagers. Jim’s team is here to turn the war on the Taliban. They are going to turn the momentum by winning with the villagers, they are going to be with them and fight beside them. General Petraeus is making a bet.
The first test doesn’t come from the Taliban. Koran’s are burned by US military and the afghan police start to kill their own leaders. Chaos. Jim and team are in an Afghan village with no US support. If the tribal units turn on Jim, he’s done. Jim had been preaching it’s all about relationships to his guys, now his preaching is being put into action. Yikes. Jim brings his team together, his team of 8 Berets. The team is scared for their life. They just got here and are alone and surrounded by Pashtuns and Taliban that associate them with the Koran burners. This could go south in a hurry.
So, Jim calls a huddle. He told the team to go and “be with.” Go be with the afghan villagers. Go be with. Drink tea. Play cards. Be with. Jim did likewise. He went and was with them too. Ann as well. Pashtun hanging together time. Jim’s first test is not in a fire fight (these are coming). His first test is how to keep his team from being overwhelmed and inviting worry for their new Pashtun hosts. His instruction was “Be with.” And, so they did. He went and hung with the most intimidating tribal leader and drank tea. He told him to trust him. He got out there. He was with him. He walked to the tribal leaders home and hung out, so to speak. FM, baby.
Since the beginning of time, the bigger the conflict, the bigger the moment. And, the best leaders understand this isn’t the time for big moves or bravado. These moments of truth are best handled by being with. As Jim Gant just shared his mantra this morning, it’s all about relationships in the center of any conflict. “Relationships are my weapon. Time is the bullet,” he said.
Go be with, leader. Go. Be with. Relationships are your weapon. Good…