Summit Preview: On the Front Lines of Trust, Empathy, and Influence

Posted By: Jon Lavietes Global Alliance Summit, Member Resources,

Many of us might have an image of an army lieutenant colonel as an imposing figure forcefully barking commands while he strides up and down among his troops, who are doing their darnedest to complete their duties flawlessly to avoid any further wrath from their superior officer.

“[People have this notion that] when you’re in a position of leadership you have a lot of authority, people will do exactly what you say. I have not found that to always be the case,” said Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Farina, PhD, MBA, assistant professor and management program director for the U.S. Army’s Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership. “Everything I’ve done in my career, whether I’ve been in a leadership position [or not], has required more influence than I thought it would.”

A Burning Desire to Lead—and Help 

Taking others’ perspectives, building trust, and showing strong character. These traits serve both military and alliance professionals on the front lines equally well, even if they are exhibited in starkly different contexts. At the 2023 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, Farina’s keynote address, “Leading from the Middle: Influencing People and Managing Organizations,” will delve into the concept of “in-extremis leadership,” or “leading when your life is on the line,” explained Farina, in efforts to demonstrate how these principles play out in his role.

For instance, what led individuals trying to flee the burning Twin Towers on 9/11 to trust the people leading the effort? “When something catastrophic is going on, what makes people follow other individuals, especially knowing that each decision could result in serious injury?” asked Farina.

Farina will also give his philosophy about what helps him do his job to the best of his ability, and attendees may be surprised at how many common principles there are in achieving alliance management success.

“It has caused [my job] to be relationship-focused. You can’t burn bridges with anybody. You have to maintain relationships. Everything you do is about finding people who understand what it is that you are trying to do, communicating  vision, but then being intellectually humble enough to take their advice and work in a more cohesive way forward,” he said.

The Failure to Communicate Is the Real Failed Mission

Farina, too, has to unite occupationally diverse cross-functional teams comprised of military colleagues and external stakeholders—interpreters, civil affairs soldiers, Psychological Operations specialists, engineers, and police and military personnel from other governments, to name a few—around a set of common objectives. If he doesn’t work to understand each party’s goals—and fears—on a deeply personal level, it becomes exponentially harder to achieve positive outcomes. For example, Farina has learned that the mere presence of the military is often interpreted as a failure of diplomacy, which automatically generates defensiveness and immediate pushback from folks he encounters on his missions, such as ambassadors to foreign nations, who feel they are being sent the tacit message that they have failed at their jobs.

“Once I understood that perspective, those initial discussions became much better. Rather than falling into a traditional adversarial role, I was able to more rapidly build trust and a common understanding—even in the initial discussions,” he said. “I had to take the perspective of the other people and where they are coming from to understand how we could cohesively move forward, and understand what their intent was and what would bring them success.”

Registration for the 2023 ASAP Global Alliance Summit is open. Sign up now to see how Farina’s view of some of the alliance management community’s core beliefs and doctrines can be applied to your day-to-day affairs.

NOTE: The views expressed are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily represent the policies or views of the Department of Defense, United States Army, or the United States Military Academy.