LEADERSHIP AND MORE
[ "You don't need a title to be a leader - and having a title doesn't make you one." ]
"Many wonder why their workers are disengaged or why they have high turnover rates. It is often the result of poor leadership. The military can help."
"When you dehumanize a person, you no longer see him or her as a human and thus mistreat them."
Anthony, this interview was AWESOME. I can wait to read the book. So happy you have found your passion again. It helps you and it helps others. Thank you! THANK YOU!! Cindy C.
Excellent topic and points.
"I never appreciated those who disagreed just for the purpose of disagreeing nor did I appreciate blind, unconditional obedience and loyalty."
"I try not to dwell on my mistakes. I regret them but live by the philosophy, “look back but don’t stare.”
When I came across IT'S PERSONAL (NOT) PERSONNEL I was first intrigued by the title, but the thing that made me want to read it was the fact that a career military leader wrote it. Having a basic understanding of how the military works I wondered if the title was a tongue in cheek nod to civilian human resources or if Colonel Campbell might actually have a perspective many would find interesting coming from a high ranking military officer. After reading the synopsis, I immediately knew it would be the latter.
I don’t remember when I first approached Rob about an interview, but I do know that it took me a while to put together the questions. In fact, it was Rob who reached back out to me after some time to say he was ready, which is highly unusual. Still, weeks passed before I finished the questions and sent them off. The reason I share this bit of information is that I believe everything happens when it should, and so it has. More on that later. It is also noteworthy to say that I change my addressing Colonel Campbell to Rob because like myself, he felt that ‘We ought to make it human and less intimidating” and not use rank. After all, we have already established his rank :-)
As I would expect from someone who had to respond to things quickly, 24 hours after sending the questions I had the answers.
AE:IT'S PERSONAL (NOT) PERSONNEL is excellent, what was the catalyst behind writing it?
RC: I first set out to help others implement a leadership practice I have seen the results of. I wanted it to be useful to leaders of all kinds of organizations and not just one of those “look at me; I’m a great leader” books.
While all of that is still true, I discovered long after I wrote it, that I did it for myself. This might sound selfish, but I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, you know the Eat Pray Love lady. I know, me, the Army Ranger reading an Elizabeth Gilbert book! It was fantastic, and I learned that a book (my creativity) was brewing inside of me for years and I needed to let it out. It was and is very fulfilling.
AE: Have you received feedback about the book from those you led and served with?
RC: I have, and it has been very positive. Many state that they wish they had it before they took command of soldiers. So do I! I never thought of or examined the approach as deeply as I did writing the book.
AE: Having been in Human Resources for 20 years, going back to when it was personnel, the organizational title has changed, but it seems to have moved further from being people-centric. Now many companies are saying Human Capital which invokes the idea that employees are a commodity instead of an intricate part of the organization. What are your thoughts?
RC: Great point Anthony. I dedicated a chapter in my book to this.
Terms and titles can do great harm. In my book, I describe the horrible terms we used throughout warfare describing our enemy. I won’t use them here, but trust the reader knows what I am talking about. This labeling of our enemies dehumanized them which led to misconduct on the battlefield.
Soldiers are trained to care for a combatant on the battlefield once captured. Think about this. In one moment, a soldier is trying to kill a combatant with cold detachment. The very next, once they are no longer a threat, care for them as they would their buddy left and right. It is what makes us the greatest nation and Army in the world. When you dehumanize a person, you no longer see him or her as a human and thus mistreat them.
I do not believe there is widespread abuse in the workplace, but the comparison is important. If I’m thought of as a resource like printer paper or capital like monies to be used, the behavior will follow. I’ve seen some organizations use “people” officer instead of director of human resources. This is a step in the right direction. Bury these titles and terms I say. Make them part of history and follow with people-centric titles and terms and people-centric leadership and we will overcome.
AE: You speak a lot in your book about Human Resources, while well-intentioned, do you think that HR departments understand the personal element or are they paying lip service to the idea of it?
RC: I tried hard in my book not to stereotype. There are wonderful, amazing people in HR departments who place people over process in all that they do. But the perception of HR is bad, and if perceived, it is real. The key to success in HR departments of all sizes is to work hard to overcome this stigma in their organization through word and deed.
Process over people is the mark of many a bureaucratic organization. Its root cause lies in the data focus which goes into forms and processes where the emphasis is capturing information and protecting the organization over knowing the person, what their story is and how the organization can best nurture them.
This is a leader fix. I kept my personnel officer very close to me, and in all of my intent and guidance, people were primary. My hope is that leaders lead their HR departments to be more “personal” instead of “personnel” and defeat the lip service syndrome whenever it rears its ugly head.
AE: I recently posted the question: Should we stop referring to ourselves as HR Professionals and start calling ourselves People Professionals? What do you think?
RC: Absolutely. It has a much better ring, doesn’t it? But never forget, Words must be coupled with behavior. Words and deeds.
AE: In the book, you talk about the how you are a different kind of person at work from the person you are at home, and that distinction makes sense especially for those in the military. In the business world, we are seeing a continual blur between who people are at work and who they are outside of work, what are your thoughts about that?
RC: Important point and to me, it speaks to self-awareness and introspection. I was the class clown growing up. I think I still am in many ways. At home I am very jovial, joking and having fun. I’m probably a bit more transparent being around those who I have shared my life with.
At work, that kind of behavior can be misread. While I like to joke around and lighten the mood, especially as a high-ranking commander, I am aware that many of those I lead do not know how to take my humor. Moreover, I served in a very serious profession, and it deserved focused, serious leadership.
Here is the key.
I was never acting. I was the real Rob or real Colonel Campbell. Leaders should be comfortable in both their home and work role. If they are not, or find that they have to put on an act, that is a warning sign. I needed both Robs in my life. I was doing what I loved in the Army, and I loved being with my family. It was a good balance for me.
AE: In chapter two, titled Impersonal Processes, you describe various methods organizations use to evaluate employees. I have never believed that the annual review or any variation of it is useful. Instead, it is an exercise in checking the box, and there is usually little accountability on the part of the leader. Instead, I have always taken the approach of continual feedback, dialogue, praise and correction with no surprises on the part of the employee. Can you sum up your belief and thoughts?
RC: Sure. Doers do what checkers check. If you build a process which is not enforced, leaders will be tempted to ignore or alter it to make their lives easier. Only one leader of the countless ones I had in 27 years ever knew if I had effectively counseled my subordinates. Beyond combat preparation and retention rates, those above me could not tell if I had invested in my people. They didn’t check the doer.
The annual evaluation has its place, but I believe it should serve as the culminating document capturing a journey the leader and they lead have taken. By journey, I mean periodic counseling or mentoring where the leader and led spend quality time reviewing and addressing personal weaknesses and gaps which prevent peak performance and potential for advancement and working to overcome them. A journey where the leader invests time in developing their subordinate into a future leader on that team.
Anthony, it’s less about the system, although there are good and bad systems, and more about the leaders approach to growing his or her people.
AE: What is the greatest miss conception of military leadership?
RC: Thanks for asking. It is an obstacle I have to overcome often. The misconception is this.
Some believe we military leaders will take a very stern, “take the hill” approach to leading. They may find this as a turn-off or intimidating. I and many of my peers can lead that way but do not as a matter of course. We take a very calm, engaged approach to leading, an approach which fosters teamwork, inspires people and helps them learn and grow. I believe it is incredibly relevant in today’s workplace and I have seen a number of organizations embrace this style of leadership.
AE: You served almost 30 years, how Has your idea of what leadership is different when you were commissioned as an officer compared to when you retired?
RC: Indeed, Colonel Campbell is a far cry from Lieutenant Campbell. In my early days, I suffered from a few things. I was a bit immature believing that a raised voice and finger in the chest was effective leadership. I was not yet institutionalized in the Army and was not a seasoned steward of my profession and our values. Perhaps I watched too many movies. I guess you could say my idea of leadership as a young officer was more “shut up and take the hill!”
Reflecting on it, something didn’t sit right even in my earliest days. Decades later, enter Colonel Campbell, the elder, fatherly figure with a calm, coaching, engaging demeanor, positive, fascinated by people and wanting to challenge them to perform better and be better people. The idea in my later years: Lead as I have just described and your people will follow you to hell.
They’ll do this because they do not want to let you down. They’ll do it because they respect you and know you will go to bat for them. They’ll follow you because you invest in them.
We live in a crazy, fast-paced, unpredictable world. It’s hard to paint a clear picture for your people. But if you invest in them. They’ll rise to the occasion and do what is right for you and the greater organization or as I like to say team.
AE: In your words from the book, the military rewards conformism and ignores merit; how do you recognize and reward individuals under such a system?
RC: In the words of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in the movie A Few Good Men:
“We follow orders or people die; it’s that simple.”
While it is not true that service members, to a person, blindly obey orders (illegal or immoral orders must not be followed, and it is ok to question orders where lives are at stake), those who got behind their boss with all they had and never questioned him or her stood a good chance for advancement over those who displayed divergence in the spirit of achieving greatness. Thus the art and attribute of an effective leader, to be able to see past this divergence and discover true merit as if searching for and seeing the real beauty of a painting then promoting and rewarding it.
I never appreciated those who disagreed just for the purpose of disagreeing nor did I appreciate blind, unconditional obedience and loyalty. I was not the smartest person in the room. I believe in group think. I needed divergence and debate to make the best decision. I was able to see “true beauty” instead of disloyalty and then reward it.
Moreover, through my constant interaction with my leaders, I could judge them on merit and not conformism. To reward merit, I would communicate to the Army through standard efficiency reports that this person deserved promotion and opportunities afforded to only our best. Leaders should focus on merit, contributions from their people, divergent think and champion those who rightly display it.
AE: What is your response to those who say “they get a paycheck” and I am running a business here?
RC: Those are very shallow statements which to me indicate a serious leadership flaw. Of course, paychecks are important. And they’re only possible if businesses are run successfully, but it’s people after-all who run businesses. Invest in them, and you’ve invested in the most important part of your business.
AE: What is the biggest mistake you see both new and seasoned leaders make?
RC: I’ll share a few.
New leaders may rush to a decision as they typically operate at lower levels, in the trenches so to speak where directions are issued verbally, and results are immediate. They suffer from in-experience so they may not want to expose their inexperience and may not consult others thus leading poorly.
Seasoned leaders may get comfortable in their ways believing we have nothing left to learn. I am always learning, and I do make mistakes now and then. Seasoned leaders may lead larger organizations, and this requires more focus on the written word and art of issuing instructions. Coupled with this the distance between the leader and those they lead may be greater and seasoned leaders may not invest enough time knowing their people thus leading them poorly.
Truly know your people, seek their counsel when making decisions and continue to learn and grow as a leader.
AE: What is the most significant leadership mistake you have made?
RC: I misjudged a subordinate leader. I miss small details or do not always pick up on the warning signs I should. I confess this weakness in my book. I place a lot of trust in those I lead, and I was burned a few times. I should have sought counsel for the reservations I was having and or attempted to know the subordinate leader better.
I try not to dwell on my mistakes. I regret them but live by the philosophy, “look back but don’t stare.” I was never reckless or ill-intentioned. I did the best I could in the time and place I was with the information I had.
AE: We have seen significant changes in the military over time from integration and desegregation, women serving on the front lines and the acceptance of gay and lesbian soldiers, but it has lagged behind changes in society. Why do you think that the military is slow to adapt?
RC: It is because it is a big slow bureaucracy sometimes very slow to change. The military gets fixed in its traditions and perceptions of who soldiers should be. I am proud to state that, while slow, it does adapt to changes in our societal fabric, the society which provides soldiers for the Army.
My rubric is this. One must be able to perform the job required regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. If one desires to serve and can perform as their nation requires them to, then sign them up. We’ll always need great soldiers.
AE: Looking towards the future, what kind of changes do you see for the military regarding leadership?
RC: I believe that there are a lot of constants in leadership. It has always been about people and people-centric practices never expire. A sergeant leading a squad in 2020 will need to practice many of the same things a sergeant leading a squad in World War II did.
I believe we have become much more aware of the human dynamics of leadership, the chemicals within us which react under certain leadership styles and personality types and their meaning to name a few. I can attest to the growth of this knowledge as I matured as a leader. It never used to matter like it does today.
All this said, take care of your people and invest in them and you’ll find your way to excellence. Lastly, I believe the modern battlefield will place even greater demands on leadership. Fighting among the population as we are sure to do, will require soldiers to kill with cold detachment in one moment and drink tea in peace as they learn about village grievances in the next. Again, take care of your people, and they will take care of the mission.
AE: What would be one thing that the military and business can learn from each other that would have the biggest impact on each of them?
RC: The military can learn a ton from business. I think many businesses today are developing innovative operational practices which ease the burden on people and produce better outcomes. Countless entrepreneurs have turned traditional practices on their head and come out with superb solutions. Look no further than the concept of Uber. The military can be very traditional and stubborn. We enjoy a steady and large budget to help us operate. In business, if you do not turn a profit, you die. That makes them much more innovative, and we in uniform can learn from it.
Business can learn about leader development from the Army. Take my career. I served in staff and command positions then was whisked away immersed in school to learn and grow. The Army made a huge investment in me as a leader because lives were at stake. Many businesses I have found, do less of this. There are a variety of reasons for it. They may not be able to see beyond their investments in marketing and finance to the tangible effects of investing in leader development. Many wonder why their workers are disengaged or why they have high turnover rates. It is often the result of poor leadership. The military can help.
AE: During your military career was there anyone that you looked to as a mentor that had a lasting impact on the way you lead?
RC: Fortunately there were several. My mentors were the ones I wanted to emulate. They would always make themselves available, and I felt comfortable sharing my deepest reservations with them. Of course, they knew me well so they could offer sage advice tailored to the kind of person and leader I was. Everyone should seek a mentor and lean on them.
AE: What about when you made the transition to civilian life, has there been someone different?
RC: Glad you asked. I’m writing about this in my next book which is about the senior service member transition. For this transition, I didn’t need a mentor to help me lead large organizations or prepare soldiers for combat. I needed one for my entrepreneurial endeavors and pursuit of a life of passion and authenticity.
This new mentor is British, younger than me and not a husband or father. But he has experienced things I have not. I admire his bravery to tell it like it is and I find that I make few big decisions without consulting him.
The key is this.
In the transition as you embark on your new mission, find someone who has blazed the trail ahead of you, someone you trust. Let them get to know you then heed their advice.
AE: What is next for you?
RC: I am writing my next book about my transition from the military. This one is going a bit slower than the last as I busy consulting businesses using many of the things I have talked about in this interview. I’m picking up steam speaking about my book and leadership and am entering the veterans transition space more as I approach the 2-year mark since I retired. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and want to share. Look for me in a city near you!
AE: I ask all of my interviewees if they have a favorite quote that I can close with, do you have one?
RC: “In caring about the happiness of others, we find our own.” ~Plato.
At the beginning of this article, I shared that it was Rob who reached back out to me about this interview, yet it still took me weeks to finish the questions and get them to him. First, in my experience it is rare that someone follows up with me about an interview even after he or she have agreed to it, I am the one that follows up. Second, as I put this interview together, reading through Rob’s answers, I could literately hear his passion for exceptional leadership, a passion I share. Despite that, I had allowed the effects of the poor leadership I have experience negatively affect me and impact my passion, jading me. As I stated, I believe everything happens when it should, and this interview is no different.
We never know the impact that someone else may have on us, and without intent, and unbeknownst to him, Rob’s passion has had an impact on me by re-igniting my passion. That is not only great leadership; it is personal!
About Rob (Courtesy of Amazon)
Colonel Rob Campbell (USA, Retired) entered the Army in 1990 and served a 27-year career as an infantry officer, ranger, and paratrooper, commanding infantry and cavalry units from platoon to brigade. Rob is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and served during Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in New Orleans, Louisiana. After retiring in 2016, Rob began a consulting, coaching and speaking business through which he delivers his message about investing in people. He serves as an adjunct professor at the Marine Corps University and enjoys adventure motorcycle riding, the beach, reading, and writing.
Rob is a native of Massachusetts and graduated from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, Massachusetts. He has master’s degrees from Central Michigan University and the United States Army War College. Rob and his wife Leslie and their two sons, Robbie and Louden, have settled on the North Carolina coast. It’s Personal, Not Personnel is Rob Campbell’s first book.
IT'S PERSONAL (NOT) PERSONNEL is available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon
Follow Rob on Social Media: LinkedIn
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A CONVERSATION WITH
Zach Hobbs, Young Life Youth Leader
By Anthony T. Eaton | JULY 2018
In 1939 Jim Rayburn a Presbyterian minister started the Gainesville, Texas chapter of the Miracle Book Club for high school students. Two years later, in 1941 that book club became Young Life, a ministry for youth. Young Life began an international program in the 1940s focusing on teens living on military bases, and during this time it started Young Life leadership at Wheaton College in Illinois. In 1946 Young Life moved its headquarters to Colorado Springs, Colorado. When it began, the focus was on mostly suburban high school students, but by the early 1950’s it had expanded to more than 25 urban areas. Today the ministry has a division in more than 700 chapters, 324 cities in 100 countries with about 18,000 members.
Recently I sat down with my friend Zach Hobbs to talk about his experience of being a youth leader in the program.
AE: How would you describe the mission of Young Life?
ZH: The mission is to meet kids where they are. It is meant to supplement the church.
AE: What attracted you to Young Life?
ZH: When I moved to Dallas I wanted a way to get involved with the community, I had previously been involved in a youth ministry in LA where I played music. I wanted to continue in that area being around high school kids; it is one of my callings.
AE: While Young Life is based on ministry it goes beyond that. Can you describe some of the other things that Young Life focuses on?
ZH: Leadership development is one of the things. Students are given the opportunity to become leaders of other students which means trying to get others to come to the club, leading by example with their peers. Because high schoolers are faced with a lot of challenges. Kids are given opportunities to do other things in the club, for example, a member created slides to go along with my music.
AE: You belong to a chapter here in Dallas Texas, about how many youths are part of the program each year.
ZH: Our area is in White Rock, but there are several around DFW, we have about 75 weekly attendees.
AE: You recently went on an annual weeklong retreat with your club, tell me about that.
ZH: We went to the frontier ranch which is one of the oldest camps. There are several camps around the US. Our goal each year is to take a busload of kids to one of those camps each year. At those camps, one of the coolest things is that kids don’t have cell phones or watches and they don’t know what the schedule is. It allows them to be kids again and removes them from the difficult things in society they are dealing with. We have activities that require them to step out of their comfort zone like repelling down a cliffside. It shows them they can trust us as leaders and puts leaders in the position to build trust between them. We share meals each day, and one of the coolest things about camp is that 75 percent of the workers are other kids. There is a camp speaker, and we have clubs, it is the best of the best, skits, games, and the camp speaker shares the gospel throughout the week.
AE: What has been the most significant thing you have gotten from your experience?
ZH: What hopefully will be lifelong relationships with the kids. On a recent trip to camp, one of the kids in my cabin was asked what he would miss most about the camp, and he said he would miss the other male leader and me.
AE: You have told me about how you have been accepted by kids who come from an entirely different background than you both economically and culturally. What have you learned from the differences?
ZH: That everyone no matter where they come from wants to be known and wants to be loved.
AE: How has your own upbringing been different or the same as the kids you work with.
ZH: A trend that I see is that they only have one parent in the home or they live with someone other than their mother or father. Some of the kids are very wealthy, and some are quite poor. They are all trying to make it and going through the same struggles as every adolescent moving through high school.
AE: Any final thoughts?
ZH: Even though I have been on the giving end and not on the receiving end not having been involved as a kid it has been just as impactful on my life.
For more information on Young Life visit their website at:
A CONVERSATION WITH
Taylor Camp, The Tie Guy
By Anthony T. Eaton | APRIL 2018
When someone says fashion magazine most people probably think that they started with women’s fashion, but in reality, the first known fashion magazine was started by a man for men in 1672. Of course, we have come a long way since then. Today men want to know about more than just fashion, they want to know about health, fitness, and lifestyle.
Recently I stumbled across a great site called the TIE GUY and was first drawn in by the clean simplicity of it, then, after reading some of the content decided it would be worthwhile to interview its creator Taylor Camp.
AE: Can you describe the TIE GUY for my readers?
TC: I am a men’s journalist talk and I write about men’s grooming, styling, and lifestyle. I also currently work with a gym on their social media branding and partner with other well-known brands. It has been quite the ride.
AE: You started the TIE GUY on Tumblr, what was your initial inspiration?
TC: I started dressing better in college, buying ties for a dollar at the Salvation Army, I was finding these great pieces from the 1950’s and started talking about them on the internet.
AE: How has the TIE GUY evolved since then?
TC: At first I was just posting on like a mood board that fit my brand. What I am known for more now is my website. Now I mostly post on and my website and Instagram. A lot of social platforms have died, and it has been a journey to see what has survived.
AE: You currently write for the Men’s Health MVP Network, tell us more about that.
TC: That program has been stopped but I am writing for another magazine, Shifted which is about men’s lifestyle and vintage watches.
AE: You have had the opportunity to work with some very well-known established brands such as Armani Exchange and DSW. What was the first brand you partnered with and was that initial experience like?
TC: The first brand I worked with was a tie company from London. I don’t know if he is still in existence but I thought it was a super big deal at the time. Now it is just part of my day today. The first paid partnership was with a hair cutting brand called Shortcut. You would schedule an appointment and they would come to your home. They cut my hair in Central Park. I was getting paid for my writings on Men’s Health at the time. It wasn’t a lot of money at first. The first big paid partnership was with Oral B to post on Instagram, Twitter, and my website
AE: What are the biggest mistakes men make when it comes to fashion?
TC: Not wearing the clothes that fit or compliment them well. Like squared shoes, pants that don’t fit, ties that are too wide.
AE: For someone just starting to build their wardrobe what should they spend their money on?
TC: A blue blazer, brown shoes, a blue or grey suit, V-neck sweater, a nice pair of denim pants, shorts, a white button-down shirt.
AE: Is there a must-have grooming product for men?
AE: What are your favorite men’s grooming products?
TC: I like a lot of these shaving startups like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club.
AE: Would you consider yourself to be a “leader” in what you do?
TC: I don’t like to call myself a leader but I consider myself a person to reach out to, friends, family members, helping other men to dress better. My brand has grown into more of how to take care of yourself, live a longer and healthier life.
AE: Do you have any role models?
TC: Not really. People I look up to are like Cary Grant, Hitchcock, the 40’s and 50’s, the art deco style. Noonein particular, more of the area and classic style.
AE: What are your thoughts on trends in fashion or health?
TC: The way I dress does not really change and that is why I have grown my brand more into wine, food, and health. Men’s style does not really change so I have continued to wear what I have for the last few years. I get pieces sent to me here and there from different brands have pieces I could wear forever.
AE: What is next for you?
TC: Continue to work for PR firms, have more paid collaborations, brand myself more and do what I feel is right.
The TIE GUY is worth saving as one of your favorites! You can also see more from Taylor Camp on his Twitter and Instagram pages. Taylor Camp lives in New York City and has a Bachelor of Science in Communication.
A CONVERSATION WITH
Colonel Rob Campbell
By Anthony T. Eaton | AUGUST 2018
"Leaders should be comfortable in both their home and work role. If they are not, or find that they have to put on an act, that is a warning sign."