Ban Bossy

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Yet again, the modern feminist continues to astound with her detachment from reality. In an attempt to usurp yet even more power, Sheryl Sandberg, who’s some sort of big-whig at Facebook, started a new social engineering program called Ban Bossy.  The premise behind Ban Bossy is that assertive women are called bossy, while assertive men are considered leaders.

I pointed out the website to a friend of mine, who dejectedly messaged me back, saying that in all 4 decades of his life, it was only after receiving the BB message that he’d finally realized that only women were considered bossy in America.  The bossy men, otherwise known as assholes, jerks, micromanaging tyrants, and snakes in suits are held in much higher regard than bossy women, or so Sheryl Sandberg would have us believe.

Unfortunately a group of famous and ironically powerful ( a sense of irony is the first thing to go among Utopians) female leaders have taken to the BB podium, urging us all to never remind females that diplomacy, leading by example, respect, and truly caring for others is paramount to not only being a good leader, but having other people believe you’re a good leader. Beyonce throws the word Bitch around in her songs but here, she reminds us she’s not Bossy, by declaring “I’m not bossy, I am the boss.”

If I made such a statement to the men in my platoon in the Army, I would immediately lose all their respect, perhaps irrevocably.

Adam Grant, Ph.D, writes an excellent, though overly PC for my taste, post  in Psychology Today, addressing female bossiness. What he has to say matches exactly my own experience. He writes:

We react very differently when power is exercised by high-status and low-status people. In a pair of clever experiments, researchers Alison Fragale, Jennifer Overbeck, and Maggie Neale show that when people with high status also possess power, we perceive them as dominant, but also warm. We hold them in high regard, so we’re willing to follow their commands. When the same commands come from people who lack status, we judge them as dominant and cold. Since they haven’t earned our respect, they don’t have the right to tell us what to do.

When young women get called bossy, it’s often because they’re trying to exercise power without status. It’s not a problem that they’re being dominant; the backlash arises because they’re overstepping their status.

This is precisely my experience in the Army. I have worked for a couple of female leaders, and worked along side others that clearly thought they were leaders. One female 1 SG, who was way over her head, was bossy on steroids, yet could sometimes be seen crying in her office. Clearly, she always tried to exercise power beyond her status and it rubbed many people the wrong way, to the point that several of them wrote letters of complaint to the company commander. I also witnessed on several occasions, females who tried too hard to stand out and succeed, perhaps with the subliminal belief that they had to compete against men. The most competitive female I’ve ever worked with in the Army had virtually no friends at the time I knew her.

This is not to say that leaders should appear weak. Indeed, the opposite, as Machiavelli pointed out, is true. The problem with many women, is that they do not understand that demanding respect is seen as weakness. The second we feel the need to declare ourselves Caesar, we show we doubt ourselves.

Many women find it frustrating that men excel is leadership positions and attribute this to a system that selects men merely because they are men. Again, so out of touch are many women brought up in the age of Girl Power, they cannot perceive the truth of the matter. Men, from day one, are raised in an environment of competition. We are expected to be strong and to win. We quickly learn what works and what does not, and we rarely have some all-powerful or bossy organization, like the US government or a womens’ rights org to turn to if we fail. We don’t even have societal pressures to protect us. Trial and error always trumps academic musings. We learn on the playground that if we are too bossy, we may get punched in the nose. Girls don’t have this learning tool, as we all know from a young age that hitting girls is worse than hitting boys. Thus, we learn diplomacy, and if not we get branded the school bully.  Our leadership skills grow organically, and we understand that hierarchy is inherent in nature.  Sure we want to be on top, but we understand nothing beats hard work and competence.

Some women become frustrated when they are placed in leadership positions and people fail to respond to them. Studies show that young girls are very concerned with the perception of others, that people will not like them because they are leaders. To me, this shows that women actually do think being bossy is leadership.  They believe they must be unlikable to lead. So they try to be friends with some people, and then immediately shift to the bossy side of the spectrum when things don’t go the way they want. I see this sort of thing with modern mothers. they try to be friends to their children instead of parents. They are afraid of offending their child and think the child will not love them if they don’t act like as a peer does. But parents should never be seen as the peers of their children. Many mothers gleefully Facebook and text with their 13 year old daughters, as if they were sisters. The end result of this is that instead of being able to exercise authority by telling the child to be home at a certain time, or doing their homework, squabbles ensue that resemble fights between siblings. In the past my wife has become frustrated with our two daughters, because they unquestionably obey me, but when I leave the house will sometimes even resort to mild forms of physical violence against her, such as a kick to the leg from the 4 year old when she doesn’t want to get dressed. The 4 year old won’t display such aggression around me, let alone direct it at me. My wife believes this is some sort of magic which the universe has unjustly bestowed upon men. But I think it’s because men grow up in a world that asks more of them.

The more women believe and tout the mythology that they have it tougher than men, the less likely they will be received as leaders in this world. They should stop and consider why the ultimate act of despair, suicide, should be so overwhelmingly a male phenomena. Out of the 110 countries listed in Wikipedia under “List of countries by suicide rate”, only in one is the rate higher for women than men. In many other countries the rate for men is double or triple that of women.

The feminists are bringing even more scorn upon women in leadership positions with the Ban Bossy movement, without even proving  a problem. Respect and the title of leader is always earned. We can earn rank and titles, but status comes with accomplishment. The more women stomp their feet in protest, the more they damage their position.




Toxic Leaders and bureacracy are killing US Army Soldiers

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In my relatively short Army career, I have seen more toxic leaders than in all my other jobs put together. The problem has now reached a catastrophic level, with a new report, conducted by the US Army, stating that as many as 20% of all leaders in the Army could be considered toxic.  It is tearing the Army apart.  This report goes on to state that the majority of soldier suicide involve a toxic leader which made life, a possibly already troubled life, virtually intolerable for the soldier.   A former Army officer who now works for the New York Times says he thinks 20% is a low number, and I very much agree. Enlisted military jobs were listed as the most stressful jobs of 2013. Part of the stress is the leadership, not just the Taliban.

I never knew what a toxic leader was before I joined the Army. I had some bad bosses, but I don’t think I would have classified any of them, but perhaps one, as toxic. But in the Army, it has been the rare occasion that I have not worked in fairly close proximity to someone that possesses one or several of the Army’s listed traits of toxic leaders. I’ve scoured by brain to think of why it could be so bad compared to everywhere else.

First, let me say that I was skeptical that things were any different in the Army than they were decades ago before the Army’s suicide problem and before Toxic Leader became such a popular term. But several things have led me to believe that something has changed, and for the worse (following my thoughts on our nation in general I suppose).  First, the suicide numbers are striking. It is more than statistically significant when the rate of people killing themselves doubles within a ten year period and shows little sign of dropping to the levels of seen before the problem arose.  Army suicide rates are comparable to the suicide rates among males in prison.  I am my Battalion’s suicide prevention officer, so I have a professional interest in this. I also have an interest because I have felt the burden of toxic leaders in the Army, and I can say that it effected me in ways that I did not think possible. The military used to have lower rates of suicide than the civilian world. One would expect this in a tight-knit organization in which everyone has a well-paying job, educational incentives, and health care. Also consider that the average soldier has fewer mental illnesses, more education and is less likely to be a criminal than the average US civilian. The Army’s response to suicide has been predictably clumsy and bureaucratic. It added several more blocks of training on how to identify soldiers who may be at risk for suicide and this of course entailed more paperwork, online training and seminars. Almost all of which only addressed the symptoms and not the cause of a very serious problem. It could be argued that this type of action adds to the despondency problem in the Army, by adding dehumanizing bureaucracy in the mix, something which Max Weber termed, The Iron Cage. What soldiers really need is very tight units which serve similar roles to families. People join gangs not so they can rob stores and shoot people, but to have connection with humans. I know this sounds stupidly romantic, but it’s easy to see and feel the effects of the disintegration of social connections.

Another thing that convinced me things changed is talking to people that used to be in the military before our modern wars. When they read about current issues and how things are done, or hear my stories, they shake their heads. They tell me it was never like this. I real forums online, too, in which high ranking retired NCOs (E8 or E9) say they got out because of the changes they say, an oppressive environment that slowly drained their desire to participate.  Many of them state that this trend began 5-10 years ago, which seems to be in line with the suicide trend.

Thirdly, is my own experience. In my entire life as a professional, I have never met a higher rate of narcissistic personalities than in the US Army’s officer and NCO Corp. It’s now come to light that the narcissistic personality trait is at the core of toxic leadership. This is perfectly in line with my observations in the Army and also my assessment of where our society is headed.  The Army is a great microcosm for almost any society, as the values held most dear and the traits most endemic reveal themselves explicitly in the military. Studies show and my own personal experience indicates that people in college and those that are not far removed from college have very elitist attitudes and think they’re  better than others around them and in past generations.  These are the folks that make up the officer corps. And as officers, they are taught by the Army itself that they are better than non-officers. I see this attitude every day. The article I link to shows the definition of narcissism:

“an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves

All negative and positive traits are magnified in the military, especially during war. Transpose our world of selfies, metrosexual manicures, hourly Twitter updates on the current state of one’s hair, breakfast, pants or fecal matter, add the current focus on efficiency, bureaucracy and hyper-rationality and then throw in a college degree and rank, and we get the witch’s brew we call a toxic leader.

There are so many toxic leaders in the Army, I would dare call it a culture. I’m not sure what percentage would need to be toxic to be defined as a culture, but if we analyze what a culture is, we find that it’s really peer pressure in action. Peer pressure gets a bad rep. It’s the way people learn their boundaries within a society. In the Army, toxic leaders with higher rank will have a grievous effect far beyond their own immediate actions, because not only do they make many of their subordinated miserable, but some subordinated will copy their leadership style.  The toxic leader is leading by example and everyone should fully expect that his toxicity will be seen by juniors as the way the Army works.

One defense against this could be philosophy.  There should be schools for NCOs and officers that teaches the basic foundation of Western ethics and morality. Why not begin with Aristotle? Another issue that is probably contributing to the military’s problems, in the ever-growing bureaucracy.  The Army is a huge bureaucracy.  One of the biggest in the world. According to Max Weber, bureaucracy is the defining edifice of modern Western civilization. Bureaucracy is what maximizes productivity, it focuses on efficiency and makes perfection its aim.  Bureaucracy is inherently dehumanizing.  In the modern Western military, combine uber-bureaucracy with the inherent utilitarian aspects of fighting wars, and it seems we may have a system that drains humans at emotional levels. I think this is why many officers do not have the emotional intelligence required to properly lead people. In the current environment, emotional intelligence is simply not exercised, so it never develops.  I believe that my time as a police officer developed my emotional intelligence to a higher degree than would have been possible if I started out in the Army. While there was significant bureaucracy as a city cop, much of the job required me to deal with a wide range of human emotions and situations. It made me realize that no matter how much we prize efficiency, human beings are not robots.  When humans are placed in systems that ignore their humanity, they become despondent. This is essentially what Dilbert shows us.

I myself have felt the sting of bureaucracy and how it perpetuates the negative aspects of narcissistic leaders. The drive for perfection in order to look good in front of the boss trumps all else.  One word on a PowerPoint slide that is not agreeable to these types of leaders results in the assessment that the product is a disaster. Font size and type become incredibly important, to the point where people are berated for Calibri instead of Arial. The content of the slide is secondary.

Steve Denning of Forbes magazine, writes: 

Are the people who lead these 20th Century bureaucracies incompetent? When it comes to C-suite teams who don’t perceive that the world has changed and who try to cope with the new demands of the marketplace by pressing the bureaucracy to run harder, the answer is yes. They are incompetent leaders for the 21st Century. They don’t understand what it takes to succeed in their jobs. Comprehensive studies, such as Deloitte’s Shift Indexshow that they are running their organizations faster and faster into the ground.

And through their incompetence, pursuing bureaucratic management instead of radical management, these leaders are causing massive damage to the economy on a daily basis and to the lives of people who depend on them: Why Amazon Can’t Make A Kindle In The USA.

Denning goes on to write:

What’s striking about the list is that these relatively high level people are imprisoned in hierarchical bureaucracies. They see little point in what they are doing. The organizations they work for don’t know where they are going, and as a result, neither do these people.

The even sadder part of the story is that the organizations they work for are going down the tubes. Deloitte’s Center for the Edge studies show that the life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 has declined from around 75 years half a century ago to less than 15 years and is heading towards 5 years. The pointlessness that these people see in their jobs is an accurate reflection of the deteriorating condition of the firms they work for. When those doing the work are dispirited, it is inevitable that customers too will be frustrated and that the firm will not prosper.

So, even at a purely utilitarian level, these organizations are failing? Why? Because they are made up of people and the people are not satisfied.

This is what is happening in the Army. And I see no evidence at all that the Army will fix it. The focus on efficiency instead of creativity, and the enraging habit of adding processes instead of taking them away is ruining the military. Most of our enemies have no bureaucratic systems, or they are much, much smaller than our own, yet they have basically defeated us, achieving their strategic aims while we founder and fib that we are winning.

I am a creative person. Since a boy, I have enjoyed stories and the fantastic. Instead of maximizing this, the Army usually crushes this instinct. I could write multiple blog posts about the bureaucratic problems in the Army, and how they drain people’s souls. Moreover, many of these processes are downright dumb.

The Army must radically change at multiple levels if the deleterious trends so evident are to reverse.  But it won’t. As usual, I take the line: “We are doomed”.  The feedback loops that keep civilizations more or less on an upward trend, are not present in the Army.  When a leader is toxic, he is the Emperor with no clothes. No one will say anything and soldiers can’t quit to find another job, not for years, when their contract expires. Even when the problems of bureaucracy are identified, the reaction of government is to add more bureaucracy, when the first question ought to be: Why do we need to do any of this? How much do we really gain vs the time put into the process?

In the end, we’ll all pay the price. We’ve already paid a large one.

Operational tempo is breaking a small Army

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Recently, I’ve been reading a book called  “Black Hearts”, a story about a platoon from the 101 Airborne is Iraq.  The story is not a pretty one.  It is in fact so disturbing to me that I’ve had to put the book down for days at a time on several occasions.  But I will finish it eventually.  At the core of the story are bad Army leaders, who think they can bully and abuse people into performing well.  One leader in particular, a battalion commander, lords himself over his company captains and blames them for every bad turn the war takes in his area of responsibility.

As I continued reading the book, one point kept standing out: America simply didn’t have enough troops to do all of the things necessary to control the country.  In one instance the commander ordered that checkpoints be set up along a road, manned by a squad of soldiers at a time.  Because there were so few troops, the checkpoints were usually only manned by 4 troops instead of 10-12. In order to satisfy brigade staff, the battalion reports indicated the checkpoints were fully manned, just so brigade would’t complain.  The soldiers would have to stay at these checkpoints for days on end, sleeping on the ground or in their vehicles and never taking their body armor off because of regulations.  Eventually an insurgent simply walked up to a checkpoint and shot two soldiers, killing them.  One soldier had his helmet off and was shot in the neck.  Investigators found that he would have dies even if he had his helmet on, but the battalion commander told the soldiers of his unit  that the dead soldier “deserved to die”, because he had his helmet off.

In this situation, a lack of troops made the effects of bad leadership much worse. In fact, too few troops makes everything worse in military operations.  One would think this would be obvious, but the modern military is obsessed with technology to the point it believes it needs only a skeleton crew of humans.  In the current environment, soldiers are so busy that many times they don’t even know how to use newer technology because there is no time to train.  I can attest to this fact.

My brigade at Ft. Drum, the 1st Brigade Combat Team, is currently at only 70% manning.  This is due to draw downs and the fact that units in Europe have not yet been dissolved, so troops are spread thin.  The 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum is the most deployed unit in the Army since 2001.  Everyday is chaos at my unit.  There is not enough solders or time to get everything done that needs doing.  I feel, personally, as if I have to know everything about everything, that there are no systems in place to keep things running smoothly.  Training and maintenance go by the wayside because we are always trying to catch up on bureaucratic functions.  In effect, we are a self-licking ice cream cone.  It is very stressful on everyone, especially the enlisted people, since shit always rolls downhill.  Remember, a Private gets in more trouble for losing his rifle than a General does for losing a war.

A few months ago my unit took a “command climate survey”, in which soldiers were asked to rate their leaders and general working environment.  The number one complaint from non-commission officers was that they felt they were over worked.  I’m sure many people in many jobs feel they are over worked, but I wish people could see the hours and work that a typical NCO int he Army puts in.

Today, our battalion commander, a man I very much admire, spoke to 2-22 Infantry.  We are preparing for a large training exercise and were given very short notice about the event.  The commander said that when he was first coming up in the Army, the unit would have had two years notice to prepare.  This year we were given 21 days.  The amount of stress this creates is difficult to explain.  And things like this happen almost monthly at my unit.  There is no individual in the Army to blame, but we as a nation and our government has to look very seriously at the effect our high tempo-low numbers strategy is having on our military and the individuals that make it up.  The low retention and high suicide rates are no coincidence.

Army Leadership is Catastrophically Broken

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The longer I’m in the Army, the more I question whether leadership can be taught in a formal manner.  The US Army heavily stresses “leadership skills”, and talks about leadership incessantly in manuals and throughout its training.  Ranger school is essentially a leadership school.

In all honesty I have never seen worse leaders than what I have encountered in the military.  People who are downright abusive and in some cases mentally unstable.  The Non-Commissioned Officer’s Creed states:  “I know my Soldiers and will always place their needs above my own.”  I’ve seen very few NCOs who live up to that standard.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  Most NCOs use lower ranking Soldiers merely to make their own jobs and lives easier.  Obviously there is an accountability and rating problem in the Army, which I suspect is the same problem encountered in any industry that does not produce tangible goods.  The fact that many NCOs can reach the rank of E7 and higher while remaining tactless bullies to those under them speaks more of the Army’s rating system than of the rated NCO.  The Army is currently implementing a 360 degree rating system in which the lower ranking Soldiers rate their leadership, but even this will not present an accurate picture of what’s going on; lower ranking Soldiers will still be afraid of their bully superiors.

Just a small example of what I’ve consistently seen in the Army.  The senior NCO in my office routinely calls his Soldiers “fags”, “nerds” and other derogatory names.  Of course he presents this with a small dose of plausible deniability–like he’s joking.  He may be joking but I’m aware of what he’s really trying to accomplish: To psychologically subjugate those under him.  If he’s truly just joking around, perhaps he would mind if the E4 working for him called him a fag.  Doubtful.  He doubles his power by telling us all that he can’t stand people who can’t take a joke.  Again, can he take a joke?

This is far from the only time I’ve seen this kind of behavior.  In fact, I am surprised when I don’t see it.

The Soviet military held that there was no known way to efficiantly make leaders; leaders emerged and took charge through natural processes and those who displayed leadership characteristics were promoted.  I tend to agree with this.  A person’s psychological and ethical makeup, as well as his or her own personal experiences do more to determine leadership qualities than dreary doctrine.

In any case, it is my fundamental belief that the Army is broken in a deep way.  Not only does its leadership exibit a proto-fascist quality in many cases,  but the Army’s systems do not function well, systems that are used daily and should run like a smooth machine.  But a rough-running machine would be tolerable with consistently good leadership.  Instead the Army seems to attract and breed borderline sociopaths.    In three years I’ve witnessed ethical and personal violations by NCO that I never saw in any other job.  Daily verbal abuse, belittling, sexual relations with lower ranking female Soldiers (against regs), and other actions for which lower enlisted Soldiers would be counseled and punished.

Tim Tebow: A Real Leader

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As much as there is a real “Tebow Mania” in the air concerning the Denver Bronco’s quarterback Tim Tebow, there is also an equally potent dark side to this mania.  Call it Tim Tebow Manicheanism.  On one side, there are the people who just like football and appreciate the play of a football player who is winning in a very unorthodox way.  Also on that side are people of the Christian faith, who also follow football, who identify with Tim Tebow’s beliefs and who appreciate the fact that he is not ashamed to express those beliefs.

On the other side of the Tebow explosion, are the haters and doubters.  There are people who had and still have legitimate doubts about Tim Tebow’s ability to play football at the professional level.  To those people I must point that Tebow still has under 300 pass attempts in the NFL.  The Denver Broncos selected Tebow in the first round and he has won the games that Kyle Orton could not.  At some point you have to stop doubting his ability and start realizing that he is driving defenses nuts.  Any other QB would have been given at least two full seasons as a starter before such judgments were made.  Especially a first round pick, like say, Rex Grossman–who’s still a starter and performing at a lower level than Tebow.

Then there is the other group of people on the dark side of the Tebow Manichean coin.  These are the people who hope Tebow will fail and it is primarily because of his unabashed Christian views.  These people hate Tim Tebow more than they hate al-Qaeda.  To them, Tebow represents a sappy, Christian anti-intellectualism under which assuredly boils a hatred for hippies, homosexuals and single moms.  The haters must ascribe luck to Tebow’s success, mock him as a Jesus Freak.  Each victory brings a new soliloquy of venom on YouTube video comments  and blogs.  Yet Tim Tebow keeps winning in the most excruciating manner.

Tim Tebow is a real leader, whatever be his innate ability to throw a football.  This morning, ESPN’s NLF Countdown presented a 10 minute tape of Tim Tebow with a mic on during his games.  You simply can’t teach the type of leadership that Tebow displays.  At least not with “leadership courses”, like the US military and some corporations use.  Tebow’s leadership comes from character.  It comes from confidence in something greater than himself.  In the ESPN tapes, Tebow displays an unshakable demeanor, laughing at his own mistakes, constantly motivating his own team mates even as a victory seems more and more unlikely.

We all know leaders who are pretending.  They are overly autocratic, mistaking control for leadership.  They are afraid that others will see their faults, lest they lose the control they ascribe to success.  Ofttimes, they present themselves as intellectuals, failing to recognize that a real leader can capture  emotive power more than the intellect.  Leonidas was no intellectual.  If he were, math would have told him he couldn’t win.

Von Steuben’s Ghost

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Friederick Von Steuben was a former Prussian General Staff member under Frederick the great. Von Steuben found himself out of work after the Seven Years War, but America required his service. George Washington brought him on board to straighten up his rag-tag Continental Army, prone to showing up drunk at work, possessing little respect for authority and generally having no idea how to be a professional army.

Von Steuben, wielding the myth that he was once a Prussian General, put America’s Army straight. Despite being only a former Captain under Frederick, the Prussian still possessed an excellent purchase on what it takes to get men ready to fight. And the Prussian system of order and drill was the best in the world. He understood the utter necessity of delegating in a military environment. Instead of merely assigning men to train an entire regiment, he first sent Soldiers to the School of the Soldier, a type of basic training, and then on to their regiments where they were drilled by hand picked Sergeants.

Since the US did not have the luxury of sending marginal Soldiers out of the Army, it was forced to make do. Mal-uniformed, undisciplined, often drunk and lacking any close quarter battle skills, the Continental Army now faced another enemy other than the English; the belligerent Prussian Drill Master, Von Steuben.

Frustrated by his marginal command of the English language, he had his personal translator march up and down the formations cursing at the Soldiers in English.

Von Steuben, along with Nathaniel Greene, wrote the Blue Book, outlining drill and ceremony.

Even today, Von Steuben’s vitriolic method of controlling unruly troops survives. For instance, while eating lunch one day at the NCO Academy, one of the Cadre from C Company marched in and explained loud enough to be heard over the buzz of chow conversation: ” If you’re Bravo Company, get the fuck out! Charlie is coming in. ”

Von Steuben's Ghost haunts these hallowed halls
Von Steuben's Ghost haunts these hallowed halls

In any other job, this would clearly constitute a hostile work environment. Imagine your boss doing this to you as you at your lunch area. In the Army, while not an every day occurence, I would not say this is uncommon. As Bravo Company 1St Sergeant, I maintained a rank higher than any other Soldier in training. I thought about how to handle this. Many in Bravo Co. were grumbling and complaining about this apparent show of disrespect. I myself would have preferred that the Cadre member simply approach me and ask me to tell the troops to eat quickly and move out so that C Co. could eat. By delegating, he would have handed me the responsibility and since I had a better feel for how the people I was with would react, I could give them the order in a tactful manner. The Army itself describes tact as a way to communicate a message without giving offense.

There are of course, times when tact must be thrown out the window. The more immature the Soldier, the more tactless belligerence is needed to make him obey an order. I can assure you that there are many undisciplined troops. For instance, while standing in formation at parade rest or at attention, a Soldier is not supposed to talk. Many though, take the relative silence as an opportunity to draw attention to themselves; the quiet makes them stand out if they crack a joke or yell something out. I’ve seen over and over where a Sergeant must repeatedly make an entire formation do pushups because a few rabble can’t shut up.

On another occasion, we were threatened with negative counseling statements–something that would eliminate a Soldier’s chance for Honors–if we talked in formation. During morning PT (physical training), the Senior Cadre told us:  “If you don’t be quiet, I’ll PT you until your noses bleed.” I believed him.

Some of this type of talk used to offend me. I was capable of being quiet when told. I saluted smartly and moved out when given an order.

Slowly though, I began to realize that this type of speech was not intended for me. My skin got thicker. I saw that if I merely did what I was told, I actually stood out against 18 year old imbeciles who think everything is a joke. That, combined with competency at my job and excellent physical conditioning, have put me on a fast track. Now, when I hear an NCO cursing at someone, or even a whole formation I’m  in, I know he’s not talking to me so much as the lowest common denominator.

But I’d like to remind these NCOs that you’ll get far more from your troops in the long run if they love you, not merely fear you. You can only get down in the gutter with them for so long. In the end, they must believe that you hold some special knowledge, capabilities or moral high ground. If they see you cursing too often, they’ll think you’re just like them, and thus they’ll lose any sensitivity to your commands and presence.

And I still hate Drill Sergeants.

Leadership is key

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Leaadership is the art of gtting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.~ Dwight Eisenhower

 Recently, the section I work in at 66 MI BDE (S2, intelligence, security and information) had a change in leadership. It’s astounding the difference a good leader can make. The person who’s been put in charge is an E8, but he will be staffing the Officer in Charge’s position because of a deployment. This guy is super high-speed. I was almost immediately charged with a new energy after he spoke to me briefly about my career development. It went something like this:

“It’s clear to me that no one has ever sat down with you and done a  career development plan with you. I want you to be an NCO by May.” He also said that he’s pledged himself to making our unit better, and that “we cannot fail.”

He’s made immediate changes and set down guidelines that have helped our shop in less than a week. An obvious work-a-holic, I couldn’t hope to match his work output, but I’m going to listen and watch intently, because I have something to learn from this person. He made E8 in 8 years, which is amazing. It also gives me great hope that sometimes the Army gets it right and promotes the most competent people the quickest. If I get promoted in May as is the plan, I will have made E5 in 2.5 years.

There’s been a couple of times that I did not meet his expectations because I didn’t know what they were. He spoke to me and made them clear, and did it in a calm, professional manner. I really appreciated that. I have no problems meeting expectations as long as they are consistant and made clear. When a good leader speaks, one who leads by example, it’s almost inconsequential what he asks of you. He’s maintained our motivation, given you a clear vision of the future, and when the time for action comes, you execute.

Men of times

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Gaius Marius: Roman military reformer who brought discipline, parity--and victory back to Romes legions.
Gaius Marius: Roman military reformer who brought discipline, parity--and victory back to Rome's legions.

It’s interesting to look at the prominent people of history, to read their biographies and see what we already know: That no man is without fault.

I’m deeply interested in leadership psychology, what makes men do what they’re told and do it to the best of their ability. What kind of traits in a leader must possess in order that men will die for him. Does positive or negative motivation work best? The best leaders, I think, use both at the best possible times. I stand by my conviction that the best leaders are the best psychologists.

Reading recently about Roman generals, I found that the primary attribute of great leaders is bravery. He must be willing to accept for himself the same dangers that his men face. While most of the Roman generals were not like Alexander (they didn’t wade into battle at the front of the lines), they had good reason: In order to control the reserve units, he had to be at the rear of the formations. The Romans did not require that an imperator (general) fight to the death, but they did expect that he would reconstitute a fighting force after a defeat and begin again to hunt the enemies of Rome. Romans accepted that small defeats would occur, but the final victory belonged to Rome.

There are many men who we can look back on, the opaqueness of time bringing dreamy illusions of demi-gods that walked amongst men, heroes without fault casting aside America’s foes, subduing her own demons. But each of these men had his own demons. Most of these men could not exist in our times. Thank goodness their own times were more forgiving and had much thicker skin.

Patton for example. I’m not sure I would have wanted to work for him, except when it came to time for battle. Then I would ask for no other. He understood, unlike all of our leaders now, that war is hell and if you don’t bring the hell to your enemy, he’ll bring it t you. If it aint hell, it aint war.  Supremely arrogant, Patton seemed to think himself a reincarnation of Hannibal. He wrapped himself in the garb of a military fop–polished silver helmet, ivory handled pistol, high leather boots. His face held always in a grim caricature.

But no man could have motivated our troops to storm the heavily defended beaches of Normandy the way Patton did.

No man would be allowed to. Imagine this speech being given today. George C. Scott gives his award winning version of Patton’s speech to the Third Army:

We have become soft. Even the Army I see and serve in is soft, at least large portions of it. The Sergeant Majors strutting around and think that ensuring no privates sport logos on their white PT socks, makes this Army tough. They don’t know their heads from their posterior as far as I can see. Put a logo on my sock and watch me in a PT test or ruck march, blow the doors off the fellow who’s in line with AR 670-1.  

Going without food makes you tough. Fighting when you’re tired makes you tough. Having pride in toughness makes you like iron. Patton got it when it mattered. We’re at war and people in my own Army worry about the inane, while fat-bodied soldiers shuffle through the chow hall lines. A three mile ruck march is a real challenge for these poor folks. Meanwhile, our friends in the Taliban are living off a loaf of bread every two days  and negotiating mountainous terrain everyday to set up ambushes.

I know our infantry and Marines are tough. But the rest of us have to get in line. America’s fighting force is too small to expect the 11 Bravos and Marines to have to do all the heavy lifting.

We need Patton now, a modern Gaius Marius   to make us stronger. Like Marius he will need to be a man who has no political aspirations, because no one will vote for someone who’s a realist, not a populist, a man that knows true strength for the soldier is about being able to carry a ruck for miles, to go long stretches of time without food and to stoicly fight on when exhaustion sets in- fair but stalwart.  And like Patton, he must be able to inspire his men to push themselves, to become proud of their own abilities as warriors, a man who hates losing.

If that man steps forward, he will not be a man of this time, but a man out of time.  In an age of softness, he will be a man of iron who will probably be despised by many, but in the end, will inspire victory.

More thoughts on leadership.

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Great leaders are a rarity. The US Army takes the view that leaders can be made, and attempts to construct leaders of adequate competency in the factories of WCS, BNCOC and ANCOC

It is true that these courses can teach the mechanical aspects of leadership; paperwork, toughness, etc. But they lack subtly, the artistic aspects of leading men and women that only “natural” leaders possess. Anyone can take an art class. Only a Van Gogh or a Devinci could make a masterpiece from his lessons. Perhaps these courses can awaken and mold the Diamond in the Rough, but they cannot make diamonds. 

A great leader is made from many materials. He must be intelligent, yet have the courage to admit he doesn’t know everything. He must be a person whose ego doesn’t get in the way of truth. He must have tact, knowing the right things to say and whom to say them to. A leader must make a study of psychology, so that the mysteries of human behavior lay open to him. He must care for his subordinates as he cares for himself. 

Most importantly, a great leader must know himself. He must consider his own motivations, and he must be able to control his emotions. Arrogance makes leaders look stupid. And arrogant leaders are stupid– and oft times downright evil. 

I know I have the ability to lead. As to if I’m a great leader, I’ll leave that to others to decide. I observe some of the leaders that surround me here in the Army, and many times I’m left wanting. Part of this is because I always expect from others what I myself give and am capable of, and this is not always fair, since frequently I’m not capable of doing what others can. I’ve tried to trim my expectations of people recently. I do try to never expect from others what I don’t expect of myself. 

I have a book. It’s in my mind. The pages are blank, but for a few scribbles in the beginning pages on which I’ve made notes. Those notes are to remind me how not to lead. When I see something a leader in my unit does that is obviously detrimental to his cause and to the growth of his Soldiers, I record the event in my book. Swearing at Soldiers as part of daily routine. Calling them disrespectful names to get them to do something that needs getting done. The leaders doing these things know nothing of the art of leadership. They’re not naturals, they’re frightened and lack confidence. They’re also causing Soldiers to be frightened and lack confidence, and so we create a whole generation of Soldiers who are timid. I see a lot of timid Soldiers, and the ones who aren’t are the rambunctious, troublesome sort who get arrested for DUI and think it’s funny. A Soldier should never be timid. He must go boldly. 

A leader must have experienced life’s pain. Churchill and Lincoln are two examples of men whose life was filled with pain. Pain made them realize that sometimes you have to make a stand. The Righteous perish without strength. 

Too often I see that the Army Values are violated by those in leadership positions. For those who don’t know what those values are, I’ll list them: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless-Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage. The ones I see violated the most are Respect, Honor, and Integrity. I know it’s not just the Army–it’s Humanity. It just looks worse when people who have such power display the basest of attributes. I also know that there are many, many great people in the military. People who give their all and have done things that they get little publicity for. People whose understanding and adherence to the Army Values surpasses mine. I hope and pray I can learn from these people.


Scipio Africanus defeated the world's greatest General--Hannibal- at Zama. Scipio inspired his men with an iron will, laser intellect and respect for his troops. He never lost a battle.
Scipio Africanus defeated the world's greatest General--Hannibal- at Zama. Scipio inspired his men with an iron will, laser intellect and respect for his troops. He never lost a battle.



Toughness must be moderated by fairness and justice. I think of Scipio Africanus, Rome’s great General who after meeting and defeating Hannibal’s army in the Battle of Zama, gave mercy to Carthage. Scipio understood counterinsurgency. Scipio never lost a battle and his men loved him and were extremely confident and motivated. I doubt he gained their confidence and respect by treating them unfairly. 

In ending, let me summarize. Some are meant to lead. Some are meant to follow. Only those who want to be great leaders will be. It takes a strength of character unusual, especially in today’s world of lax morals, easy lies, and opaque honor.