SGM (Ret.) Kyle E Lamb recently was a guest at our Shot Show booth where he signed copies of his latest book, “Leadership In The Shadows”. We decided to reach out to Kyle and talk about leadership, being a business man and his new book. Enjoy.
Why the decision to write a leadership book? Most of your previous books have been training-style manuals.
Since starting to teach the Leadership in the Shadows seminars, which I was shamed into doing by a buddy at DEA, I have always thought about writing a leadership book. It wasn’t until a cop and former Navy aviator buddy of mine, Matt Bucella, cussed me out for not getting the book to market that I finally jumped on it. This is my third book and by far the hardest to write. Discussing shooting is easy, I can make you successful there. Leadership on the other hand is a whole new deal, being a successful leader takes much more work and also requires those you lead to be part of the team. In the end if you are successful as a leader it is mostly due to those who are working beside and below you, they can make or break you as a leader.
In the book you talk about leaders who influenced you. What 3 traits do you consistently see pop-up in a leader that may have influenced you?
1) Strong personalities are key to being a leader, this doesn’t mean you are loud it means you lead with dignity and respect for your followers.
2) Always do what you say, follow through.
3) Dare. Dare to be different and not afraid to make decisions, those who waffle will not be my favorite leaders. Make a decision and move out. You won’t always be right but you will be moving.
Based on your experience, what one common flaw do bad leaders fall victim to?
I can’t give one flaw, it is normally two. Bureaucracy is the first. If you are a bureaucrat you won’t be successful. Second, selfish. If you are selfish and don’t put the needs of those you lead ahead of yours you will never be successful.
You created a category list for those in leadership. The list included “great, good, bad, dangerous, malicious”, do you find that there are leaders who hold pieces from two categories or is it pretty black and white based on your experience?
The goal is for you to quickly make a decision as to what type of leader you want to be, what type of leader you are working for, and what characteristic made them fit into that category. I really prefer to break it into good or bad, and what makes that leader good or bad. Once you decide where they fall you can further break the categories down in the 5 listed above. Some so-called leaders end up in different categories as they mature or as times change. What really matters is which category you end up in when times are rough. This shows your true nature as a leader. We can all lead when the sun is shining, what do you do when the bullets are flying?
With the tactical category gaining momentum and the industry growing, what piece of advice would you give to those who are starting a business based in the tactical industry (talking more about products instead of training)?
If you are planning to start making and selling gear you should do a few things. First, don’t copy other peoples ideas, have original thoughts. Secondly, make products that fill a void. Don’t create a product and then try to come up with a problem to solve. Start with the problem and fix the problem with your product.
Being a business man yourself (Viking Tactics) what was the hardest lesson you learned when first starting out?
Probably the best lesson I learned was when I wanted Viking Tactics to be a “great, BIG, tactical products and training business”. If you looked at that same sign today it would say Viking Tactics a “GREAT tactical company”. Big doesn’t matter, great is what matters.
Did you have a hard time transitioning from serving in the armed forces to becoming a businessman? What was the hardest transition?
Yes, transitioning is difficult. As a warrior in the Army, you work with men and women who all have mission focus. When you get out and enter the business world that focus is gone. Those around you are focused on different things such as themselves and their career progression or meeting some arbitrary numbers for sales. I continue to try to focus on the Mission, which is for us to provide the most relevant training and gear to Law Enforcement officers, Military operators, and civilians as possible. What has helped me is to be able to continue to work not only with men I served with, but travel the country and work with others who remain in the fight against evil. They are all my warrior brothers and sisters.
What’s the best piece of advice you would give to new leaders in business?
Be honest with those you lead and always, I say again always, pick the right person for the job. Don’t let friendships and tenure get in the way. Pick the right person to fill key positions. Even more importantly, if you pick the wrong person, move quickly to rectify this situation. This doesn’t mean you have to fire someone because you made a bad leadership decision and moved them into a position they couldn’t handle. Move them where they can be successful. Not everyone wants or is capable of being a leader. Some want to work and are really good at it.