Fred Aubin, Strategic Red Team Consulting

Lieutenant-Colonel (retd) Fred Aubin, CD, MCGI, is Founder and CEO of Strategic Red Team Consulting, and is based in Ottawa, Canada.

A 34 year command-level combat veteran of the Canadian Forces, Fred leads a consultancy team with an extensive arsenal of expertise for what he calls, “The Corporate Battlefield”. Fred has commanded everything from specialized strategic advisory teams of 20 to large multi-disciplinary task forces of 600, both at home in Canada and abroad in harm’s way. He was a highly experienced strategic planner in the Canadian Department of National Defence and has designed, managed and coordinated business plans, transformational “change management” campaigns and corporate level strategies with values in the billions of dollars.

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A firm believer in the principle that “all strategic issues are leadership issues”, Fred has been used extensively in executive leadership consultancy and strategic planning capacity building portfolios at Head of State, Ministerial, Ambassadorial, CEO and Senior Executive levels in Canada, Africa and Afghanistan. He holds a Masters in Military Technology from the Royal Military College of Science in Shrivenham, a Baccalaureate of Arts in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Ottawa, and is a graduate of the Canadian Land Forces Command and Staff College Kingston, the UK’s Joint Command and Staff College and the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

And as I’ve learnt from a number of extended conversations, Fred is a fund of information and wisdom about leadership.

Military Does Some Things Better

After leaving the military, and contemplating a new career in the private sector, Fred did “a complete environmental scan” and observed that:

  • there are some things that the private sector does very well
  • there are some things that the private sector does terribly

And he posed for himself the question of why they do those things terribly – and then why, in his perception, the military does them better. His conclusion:

“We do them better because we have certain tool sets and expertise that we build over decades of someone’s career that allows us to do these things.”

Several of those things “popped up” for him, including how people do intelligence.

“If we did intelligence in the military the way they do it in the private sector, we’d all be speaking Russian right now.”

Wargaming and Red Teaming

Fred’s company uses processes of wargaming and red teaming to help with strategic planning. He explained the difference.

Wargaming is where you get everybody included in the process and use techniques “to fix your plan and make sure everybody has unity of thought, purpose and plan before you execute it.”

Red teaming is “where you bring somebody in to make your plan fail”. In other words, put the plan under “extreme competitive stress”. (Sounds more interesting and useful than the Wikipedia definition I quoted in the podcast conversation!)

Does Culture Really Eat Strategy for Breakfast?

A statement often attributed to the late, great management expert Peter Drucker (1909-2005), is “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. It appears there is no verifiable evidence that Drucker ever said that. Fred expressed some strong views on how that statement has been used and reminded me of the blog post he wrote for LinkedIn on this some time ago: Culture doesn’t eat strategy for breakfast….but it will regularly feast on weak leadership and incoherent strategy

Other Topics

Listen for Fred’s demolition job on the stereotype of rigid, inflexible, unimaginative leadership in the military and the implicit corollary that military leadership doesn’t fit for the kind of agile, adaptable kind of leadership needed today in the business world.

“We teach adaptive leadership. You adapt your leadership style to a) the mission and b) the team. And that is as true in business as it is in battle.”

Emotional intelligence – something new? Fred explained how the fundamental concept is literally thousands of years old. The Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher Marcus Aurelius had said one must know the emotional pulse of the empire. And from more recent times Fred had a quote from Clausewitz. on the moral (i.e. in modern parlance, psychological) aspects of war.

Do leaders today, in the age of digital disruption, need new leadership skills or time-honoured ones? One aspect of this is they have to be, or learn to be, leaders, and not get stuck as specialists. “The C-suite have to be strategically minded, not tactically minded”

A couple more items

Fred said “Everything I’ve learnt (in the military) has commercial potential”.

“Leaders eat last” is not new: Fred traced it back to the legendary British general of WWI (and sometime Govenor-General of Australia) Sir William Slim. Last night, I found this quote:

To his officers (in Burma, facing huge odds against the Japanese), Slim said:

“I tell you, as officers, that you will not eat nor drink, nor smoke, nor sit down, nor lean against a tree, until you have personally seen that your men have first had the chance to do those things. If you will do this for them, they will follow you to the ends of the earth, and if you fail to do so, I will bust you in front of your regiments.”

Follow up with Fred

If you think Fred and his team can help your company, organisation, government agency, get in touch with him, have a chat. If my experience is anything to go by, you will at least come away from a conversation with Fred knowing something new, or seeing something with a fresh perspective. Make contact with Fred through the website for Strategic Red Team Consulting at this link: http://stratredteam.com

And follow Fred on Twitter: @FM_Aubin

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).