- What a modern leader needs is the time-proven trinity of head, heart and balls! - Thomas Gast frequently taps into his tough times in the French Foreign Legion, and the anecdotes he relates and transfers into the realms of modern management serve to illustrate the importance of timeless virtues: Leading by example in fast-paced and volatile environments; learning to delegate; appreciating individuals and their skills when forging a team; creating corporate culture; taking pride in a code of honour and excellence, etc.
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“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the
courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion
to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to
be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his
actions and the integrity of his intent.”
In February 1985, Thomas Gast joined the French Foreign Legion. Upon completion of his basic training, he was deployed to the Jungle Regiment in French Guiana (3rd Foreign Infantry Regiment). In September 1987, aided by a German legionnaire officer, he managed to get into the only para regiment of the Foreign Legion (2nd REP). He rose through the ranks, soon made sergeant and finally, after barely 11 years, he became a platoon leader and company sergeant major. After his service in the Legion, Thomas Gast spent a long time in security. He lived and worked in Saudi Arabia: as security staff. Client: Delegation of the European Commission at Riyadh. Haiti: as country manager, (CEO). Client: Delegation of the European Commission at Pétionville. Israel: as deputy country manager at the European Commission Technical Assistance Office, (ECTAO). Yemen: as security team leader, acting for a French company. Client: The Yemen Liquefied Natural Gas Project, (YLNG). Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, since 2004 to date: on behalf of a renowned British company, the author guards British vessels against pirate attacks as privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP). His book ‘PRIVATE SECURITY’ is well and widely received amongst the security branches.
A note to the reader
WHO is the reader?
How the book came about
A principle of coincidence?
A robust real-life example for starters
Done everything right?
Head, heart and balls
The boss’s vademecum or the ‘ten commandments’
March or die – together we are stronger. Real-life example
Preserving the employees’ integrity. Real-life example
A simple question
Three pillars – 1. Respect
Three pillars – 2. Authority
Three pillars – 3. Discipline
Game over – leadership and survival
Private matters on duty
Looking the other way?
Summary of part 1 of the book
Lecture hall and frontline – it’s getting serious!
How do you experience the subject of leadership in a situation of crisis?
Luck. Sheer luck – a real-life example
A few extra important items
How to structure my team
Death to multitasking
A team leader asks for advice
Grill your co-workers!
Summary of part 2 of the book
The job description
The golden mean
The code of honor
That guy is taking it too far
Summary of part 3 of the book
The best results?
What is motivation?
Lead your team into the champions’ league
Delegating: Anart that isn’t anart!
Summary of part 4 of the book
Lidl, walmart, H&M and charisma
This book first appeared on October 10, 2011 under the title “Ways to Success: Successful Staff Leadership – In a different Way” (German edition). Meanwhile endowed with a new title, a more sophisticated text, a clearer structure as well as additional examples taken from practice, the work is back on the book market. To the discerning reader, this overall enhanced publication offers detailed insights into the world of leadership and the world of the executive floor. Review by Moro, July 7, 2012:
“I have been leading employees for 20 years, and I have attended numerous, partly “ultra-expensive” leadership seminars. It was more out of curiosity that I bought the book “Ways to Success” – and I am all enthusiastic about it. It is written in a no-frills style, and it provides the answers to all the prerequisites that make a good boss. No matter if it’s sensitive or “tough” co-workers, whether it’s known troublemakers or the run-of-the-mill daily routine – the book by Thomas Gast, or better: his views on leadership, will equally apply to all of the above. In brief, I am ecstatic. The book is better than all the dear seminars and seminar materials put together, since it precisely summarizes the essentials. It is exactly as the author describes it, and nothing else. No matter what some top-coach wants to make you believe (never leading “obnoxious” people himself), no matter what “elaborate” Q&A-techniques they sell you as good leadership – so far, none of them has been able to match Thomas Gast. Thanks, I would purchase it all over again.” (Original review in German).
This book addresses all bosses, training managers, team leaders, military cadres, department heads, supervisors and all those who aspire to such a position. I will refrain from giving you advice on how to achieve a role as cadre. But I do wish to support you in keeping your position for as long as humanly possible. Your success is important to me!
Meeting with success?
There is no secret formula for success; yet if you shortly bear with my real-life examples, study them meticulously and put the lessons learned to excellent use in your real job life, you are closer to the truth (and success) than you might imagine. One thing, however, should be crystal clear to the reader. I do not feel it is my vocation to show bosses in middle or upper management positions how their job works. That is why I deliberately leave out ‘management’ as such.
You live in a city? Good! Open the window and cast a glance outside. Out in the streets, behind closed windows, in jammed factory halls, cold offices and corporate buildings as well as in abominable supermarkets, there is a hustle and bustle of an exorbitant number of people who call themselves “boss” – and they are only happy when they can micromanage or administer everything to death. Most of them have only one ambition: Their own stable job! With their sights firmly locked on a lifelong stipend, the pension, the appreciation by a superior and their own prestige, they will always run amok when overtaken by another person or whenever their own success (or the aforementioned appreciation) fails to happen. This total aspiration towards security and status is not only boring, it is simply wrong. At least when the environment ‘colleagues, co-workers and employees’ is suffering as a consequence, when their own integrity goes overboard, and when one is forced to literally climb over heaps of corpses in order to approach the defined target.
This book is meant to help do things differently, but: What I am writing is no science. What I put down on paper is not the result of research, statistics or the findings of obscure studies, since I hold no qualification in any of these domains. I want to pit my hands-on experience against all of this. My experience in terms of leadership. You are going to find out pretty quickly that the pages you are reading here are testament to exceptional success stories. The real-life examples took place exactly as I describe them here. Of course, they are neither ordinary nor everyday occurrences. Which supervisor in Europe is compelled to put a handgun in his drawer – for fear of reprisals or sheer agony – when s/he has to conduct a ‘cumbersome’ staff appraisal? I know of no-one. But it has happened to me. In Haiti, to give the place a name. I am using this example right at the beginning. It is destined to teach the boss (you) a lesson. At the very least, it should entice him (you) to think. To get him to ask himself that question: How would I, as a superior, respond when exposed to such a situation, here translated into a European setting? All the other examples can easily be transferred one-to-one: to the firm; to the company; to the enterprise or to the company (mil.). To pretty much everything, provided you have the gift to read between the lines. In addition, I would like to show you how to push people into the abyss, and how wonderful the free fall can be for those concerned. I wish to prove to you that it is possible to push everybody’s boundaries; these boundaries may also deliberately and voluntarily be pushed by the individual concerned. What I aim at is presenting to you a highly unconventional kind of leadership. My first and foremost message to all executives is: Prove to the staff in your company:
That they are strong.
That nothing is impossible.
That they have their place.
That they are significant.
That it is possible for work to be fun.
The second message goes out to you, you leaders: Lead in a way you want to be led yourself, but do not forget that there is a higher goal than to make all personnel happy at all cost: Joint success!
In February 2000, my first book was published. The Legion – With the 2nd REP to the hot spots of this world (original title in German). It was both non-fiction and autobiography. Its success was mediocre, but still; the volume received excellent reviews. From a literary point of view, I thereby found myself in the lower 12.5 pc of the ranking of German authors, in a gray zone that required more than just an autobiography to get out of. Yet, writing was my passion. And I wanted to serve that passion, no matter what the cost. Analyzing the merely modest success, I pondered what I might do better in the future. In my view, the book was tainted with an unforgivable flaw. The Delphic point seemed to be the subject itself. When scrutinizing the German book market, I soon realized that people are prone to spend much more money on a cookbook with summer dishes from Provence or on a self-help book on parenting than on the autobiography of a man who had served seventeen years in the French Foreign Legion. At some point, however, the tide turned. Print runs of my book went through the roof as the renowned author and sports journalist Carsten Germann crossed my path. In its 20/12 edition, FOCUS-magazine suddenly described the book as simply the standard work of reference on the Foreign Legion. Editors and publishers virtually stampeded through my door. They wanted more, wanted to see blood, chicanery and heaps of corpses, they wanted all that is called cliché and triviality. A reputable Munich publishing house thought themselves appointed to play to exactly that cliché till the cows come home. One day, there was a knock on my door, in the shape of a ghostwriter. The publishing house was well known for best marketing any of its books in print, with no venues nor vehicles of distribution barred: TV-interviews. YouTube. Commentaries and articles in the biggest daily newspapers, etc. They promised me 250,000 copies sold for the first year. Wow. It had a certain ring to it. I thought about it for a moment, and I declined the publisher’s offer. Why? Well, I was a stickler for the truth. I categorically objected to the telling of lies in order to make myself look better or to earn more money. Moreover, my text was sacrosanct to me. The day I give up the monopoly on my texts, leave it to a ghostwriter, I cease to be an author and writer. But back to Carsten Germann. The article that resulted from our encounter appeared in Welt am Sonntag on July 17, 2011 (circulation: 440,000; coverage: 1,200,000 readers), and the week after already saw my mailbox filled with requests, proposals and suggestions. One of the weirdest ideas, as I thought at first, came from a dear friend, the director of a booming enterprise. Another was courtesy of the training manager of a notable Swiss automobile group. They both asked me to lend an ear to a cause that they cherished a lot. They wanted me to furnish, free of charge, the key to an enhanced, successful leadership style to their respective echelons of leaders, which – as I gathered between the lines – were frustrated and at times at a loss.
How do you lead?
How does one motivate?
What do I have to do so that my personal leadership style has a sustainably positive effect on the staff’s motivation (employees); that the efficiency of every single one of them (provided there is sound management on the upper levels) comes to bear on harmony, productivity and the corporate image, long-term effects desired?
The questions that were put to me were at times very elaborate, which actually caught me by surprise. Here they are.
How do you lead in the Foreign Legion?
How do you experience the subject of leadership in a situation of crisis?
How is the Foreign Legion organized?
What did you experience there?
If we substitute the above bullet points so that they are fit for civil application, we might arrive at the following.
What (personal/in-house) leadership do I choose?
How do I lead under stress, under pressure, amidst chaos?
How do I structure my department and what are my experiences?
What feedback, what testimonials are of interest?
But stop! I believe, I owe the reader an explanation at first, detailing why, for what reason and through which profound legitimization it is the Foreign Legion, of all organizations, that serves as a kind of role model here, and how I personally fit the bill. Let me digress for a moment. The Foreign Legion is a unit (enterprise / firm / corporation) that wholly consists of volunteers. These volunteers belong to different races and religions. They hail from 135 different countries (language – or communication issues). They represent all age groups (from 17 to retirement age) as well as all walks of life. Among them you will find: the engineer from Reykjavík; the hooligan from Manchester; the prince from the country of Georgia; the guru from Nepal; the parson from the French province; the loser; the winner; the hunter and the hunted. You can well imagine that, in order to lump everybody together, one needs strong leaders. And these leaders will have to be led by people who are extremely familiar with ‘worldwide leadership ethics’. Here, no diploma will suffice, no coaching, no truism. What is needed is an exemplary, competent and strong leadership concept; otherwise you could never master all the problems resulting from the diversity, the heterogeneity and the background of the employees. I certainly do not exaggerate when I boldly assert that what is called ‘globalization’ was a topic in the Legion at a time when most European businesses would ignore the very meaning of the term. Oh my god, did I really mention problems / issues earlier on in the text? Well, there are none! The Legion is successful. It is the most powerful army corps (corporation / company / enterprise) in the world. It is unique as it is self-confident and efficient (image / turnover / profit). It is at the vanguard, and hence an example to emulate, of integration (accomplished, multicultural personnel management whilst using the broad gamut of individual skills). Meanwhile, there are about a dozen other armies (companies / enterprises / corporations) that look to the ‘Foreign Legion Model’ for guidance. We need no longer rack our brains about the ‘why’: The echelon of leaders in the Legion makes the impossible possible! The Legion shop operates effectively, from one success to the next. Like a well-oiled machinery. It is running ‘colorfully’ and smoothly.
So what is my role in all of this?
I was part of that echelon of leaders in the Foreign Legion. From December 1989 to 1991 I was squad leader (read: head of department); then, until 1995, deputy platoon commander and from 1995 to 1997 platoon leader (read: full-time manager with 45 employees). In 1997 I achieved the great feat. I was deployed to HQ, and my office was on the same floor, just three doors down from that of the regimental commander (director general / CEO). From now on it was my task to train the instructors.
To train the instructors!
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