In late summer of 2013, I started a new position with a small Government contractor in northern Maryland. I spoke to one of the owners on the phone, who was both my new boss and the company's CTO. He was a matter-of-fact guy with the enthusiasm of Ben Stein. I wasn't sure what to expect.

We clashed in the beginning as I found him very demanding with no desire to praise, but plenty of capacity to criticize. It was not until about four months into the job that I learned to really respect him. We were at a job site where everything was out of control and, as contractors, we had little authority to change it. He took charge in an assertive but democratic way. I'll never forget what he said.

"If I tell you to do something, you'll do it, no questions asked. If you tell me to do something, I'll do it, no questions asked." The first sentence is a classic military statement and is well-suited in a top-down, command-and-control work environment. He was a military communications officer in a previous life, much like myself. The second sentence seemed like a platitude and I didn't take it seriously for one second. I would not have to wait long for the opportunity to test his commitment.

I was teaching a group of customers how to operate some communications equipment when I realized I was missing several Ethernet cables. I shouted for the boss and told him I needed six cables. He nodded and disappeared. Minutes later, I saw him sitting on the concrete like the rest of us. He was teaching others how to make the cables as he built them for me. He delivered them promptly and asked if I needed anything else. I couldn't believe it.

I try to use this style of leadership in my personal and professional life whenever I can. With mature colleagues, it does work. If your spouse can get on board with it, it's a life changer. We command one another, sometimes curtly, to do things. This isn't out of disrespect or control, because it goes both ways and the expectation is that whatever was requested will get fulfilled. There is no need for extraneous discourse.

I worked with that CTO on many other job sites and he stayed true to his word. He was hard-nosed because he was completely focused on results, and while a touch of empathy wouldn't kill him, I considered him a capable leader.

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