21
Sep
08

Leadership

This week I got to thinking about leadership, specifically US Army leadership, but also in general. The impetus to write this article occurred after reading a friend’s article, talking with another friend about my experience so far in the Army, and of course, my own experience with leadership.

Leadership to me, is doing what needs to be done, regardless of outside influences. The need to be liked, something we all have, is an impediment to true leadership, though as I will explain–people will eventually come to appreciate true leadership, even when it is momentarily unpopular. Abraham Lincoln is the best, and my favorite example. His decision to go to war to keep America together took incredible will. half of the country wanted him dead. His Emancipation Proclamation essentially destroyed the legality of the South’s economy–and only through massive bloodshed could the Confederate States be forced to do what was right.

So, first leadership takes courage. Without courage, a leader can’t hold a direction for long. His mind is constantly swayed by the need to be liked by everyone (Bill Clinton, anyone?), or perhaps the normal desire to hold onto one’s own life. Lincoln’s courage was indomitable–he put his own life in danger by going to war, because he knew what needed to be done and that slavery was a scourge.

Next, leadership takes wisdom. Knowing when and how to apply the proper amount of force and knowing how to deal with people. It’s been said that it takes great wisdom to know when to be brutal. And at times, a leader must be brutal.The wisdom comes from experience, and to a great extant, an imperceptible aspect of some people’s nature. Some people are magnetic and we just can’t put our finger on why that is.

When I was in Basic Combat Training, I was elected squad leader by my platoon sergeant. That same platoon sergeant said that a true leader must possess a special quality that makes people want to do what he requires. I agree. But the great leaders must go beyond that, making the moral choices that are also the tough choices.

I was also made squad leader here at Ft. Huachuca. My experiences as a student leader have taught me some interesting things about myself and others. My Friend told me before I went in the Army, that I possessed charisma. I didn’t really know what he meant, because to state the truth, I tend to avoid large crowds. This fact means I never got to see how my own personality effected large groups. However, once I got into the Army and was placed in leadership, I saw what he meant. People do what I ask of them, and the few times where I had to be brutal (with my words), there wasn’t the expected lasting resentment. People seemed disappointed to have disappointed me. I found that people, especially in the Army where Alpha-types abound, want to follow people who stand up for themselves and are physically capable. I’m 37 and hang with all the young guys. I don’t take garbage from anyone, but can also be a good listener and good judge. People come to me for advice. Recently, I resigned from squad leader to allow an 18 yr old to have a chance at leading the squad. He said he wanted to be squad leader so, while I was standing in formation, I simply handed him the paperwork I was filling out and said, “You’ve been promoted.” My squad members have not responded well to this. They come to me for accountability and for any problems they have. They tell me they want me to be leader again. I shake my head and point to the young man. I did this because this is a training environment, and I like the kid. He deserves a chance to find out what leadership is like, and he needs to toughen up a bit. I also did it because I’m lazy….

The quote by Xenophon at my blog’s header says a lot.

I’m not tooting my own horn here. I wasn’t always a leader. When I was young, I annoyed a lot of people. But the trials of life and my work as a police officer melded with whatever natural ability I had and made me a strong leader.

Hopefully this serves me well for the rest of my career.

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