Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I don’t have much time to make type up a post today because I have to get up super early tomorrow. So, I’ll post an e-mail that I got from a friend on leadership. I read the e-mail and found that there are a lot of similarities between what I posted and this article.

Being mean is part of the job.

· · As one of the senior leaders in the Army, I spend a majority of my time coaching and mentoring many of our great young officers and NCOs on the subject of leadership and “taking care of Soldiers.”

As most of you know there is no “cookie cutter” solution or formula that identifies great leadership or how to “take care of Soldiers.” FM 22-100 (Army Leadership) is an excellent training aid, however, it does not give us as leaders every answer we need to take care of our Soldiers.

One of the ways I try to relate to junior leaders on what our responsibilities are in taking care of Soldiers is that being a leader is very similar to the role of parenting.

As a parent your role constantly evolves as your child grows older. We give the child more freedom and responsibility as they get older, mature and demonstrate they are capable of functioning on their own.

Granted we sometimes face challenges with the generation gap, but we learn what tactics work by trial and error.

We still have an inherent responsibility to teach our children right from wrong and instill the values of being a good citizen and a productive member of society.

That same responsibility applies to our role as leaders. As the young Soldier matures, we give them more responsibility and less supervision. We still have an inherent responsibility to teach and uphold the Army Values and the Soldiers Creed. We also have an obligation to know, teach and enforce adherence to the Army standards, whatever the situation is we face and hold Soldiers accountable for their actions that don’t adhere to the standard.

During my 19 years of service in the Army, I continually looked for any piece of literature or guidance from superiors that would continue my professional development as a leader.

As a brand new sergeant at Fort Hood, Texas in 1989, the post newspaper ran an article written by the III Corps Public Affairs Officer Col. Bruce Beals.

The title of the article was “Being ‘mean’ officer/NCO part of the job.” That article had a profound effect on me as a leader in that it reinforced to me what my role as a noncommissioned officer was in knowing, teaching, and enforcing standards. I have carried the article with me ever since and I try to provide a copy to every leader I coach or mentor. The article is still relevant today, so I would like to share with you a reprint of the great article by Beals:

“Recently, my wife and I were Christmas shopping and we stopped at a small knick-knack store. As we looked around, I spotted some samplers on the wall with catchy sayings and poems. You’ve seen those nice frame adages like, “Today is the first day or your life” or “Old Soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

One of them caught my eye. It was entitled The Mean Mother. It began with something like “A mean mother never lets her children have all the candy they want.”

As I read the attributes of the “mean mother” my wife approached. She saw what I was looking at and quickly observed that many of the characteristics of the “mean mother” could be applied to the “mean officer” or the “mean sergeant.” As usual, my wife was right.

I’ve made my list of traits that distinguish the "mean officer and sergeant."

The mean officer/sergeant:

- Holds their Soldiers accountable for their equipment. He makes the Soldier clean it after an exercise and replace lost or damaged items.

- Inspect their Soldiers on a regular basis and holds them to an established and well understood standard.

- Insists their Soldiers are at the right place at the right time in the right uniform.

- Encourages every Soldier to take care himself/herself physically, mentally and spiritually.

- Checks to ensure the Soldier takes care of their family.

- Doesn’t allow their Soldiers to abuse equipment, vehicles or facilities.

- Makes their Soldiers study for promotion boards, competitions and skill tests.

- Insists that their Soldiers read and use the right manuals and reference materials when using and maintaining equipment and weapons.

- Demands earned respect from their subordinates.

- Teaches their Soldiers to show initiative and discipline in their absence or in the absence of orders.

- Teaches their Soldiers to respect each other, their unit and the Army.

- Insists that every Soldier accept responsibility for their own actions.

- Expects their Soldier to look out for their fellow Soldiers.

As I was putting my list together, I found a quote by General Curtis Lemay, former Air Force Chief of Staff and Commander of the Strategic Air Command that sums up the “mean leader.” “I don’t mind being called tough since I find in this racket it’s the tough guys who lead the survivors.”

The next time you hear about a “mean” officer or sergeant, think about that.”

Being a by product of the baby boomer generation and a parent, I realize that there is a distinct difference in the personalities and the things important to the Soldiers from the different generations in our formations today. There are very few families today where “June Cleaver” is at home waiting for the “Beaver” to get home from school and who is always around to instill strong family values.

Just like today’s parents must remain flexible to the changes in society, leaders must also remain flexible to the differences in our young Soldiers. That same tactic that worked when they were a young Soldier may not work on today's generation.

However, that does not relieve leaders of their responsibility of instilling good order and discipline and holding all Soldiers accountable to the standard.

If you talk to a dozen leaders, you will probably get a dozen different definitions to describe a good leader, who takes care of their Soldiers. To me in order to be good leader, you have to first love being a Soldier; second you have to love being around Soldiers and their families. You have to love leading, training and caring for Soldiers and you have to put all of your efforts towards doing that.

Just like a parent makes the investment of their time and money to raise their children, the leader also needs to make a similar investment of their time in taking care of their Soldiers.”

One of my favorite sayings is “I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care.” I believe that simple saying applies to a parent as well as any leader.

It is one thing to know how to do things. It is another to care enough to make the time to help your child with their homework, or your Soldier study for the promotion board or fix a pay problem. If you can’t make that investment as a parent, then in my eyes you truly don't care whether your child is successful. If you don't make that investment as a leader, then in my eyes you are probably a “combat ineffective” leader, who will end up getting your Soldiers killed or injured.

If your leadership style is in line with the attributes of the mean officer or mean sergeant, then you truly earned the title of “leader” and your Soldiers will follow you anywhere.

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