Learning the Wrong Lessons from War

How to draw the right lessons from war, and history, to make the right decisions now. 

Leaders generally know and follow more recent examples than distant ones. This makes sense since the technology and social mores of the near past resemble the present more than those of the distant past. However, taking the wrong lessons from the past can lead current decision makers astray. Further, the recent past is not always the best guide to present action.

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The Long Shadow – How to Follow a Superstar

We may pity the person following someone who is widely acclaimed in their field. But they are doing really important work, and we should thank them. 

A Tennessee democrat who was firmly committed to the Union, Andrew Johnson had a distinguished career as congressman, senator and governor of his state. Hoping to send a message of reconciliation to the rebellious South, Lincoln chose Johnson as his vice president in 1864. Johnson’s debut on the national stage went poorly, with a rambling and perhaps drunken speech when he assumed office in March 1865. Lincoln followed with a masterpiece, his Second Inaugural Address. Little did anyone know that in only six weeks, at one of the most crucial times in American history, the rambler would be President.

A Missouri democrat who came to national prominence investigating fraud, waste and abuse on the Committee of Military Affairs during the Second World War, Harry Truman had earlier served as farmer, haberdasher, judge and US senator. With President Franklin Roosevelt in declining health and many expecting that he would not survive his fourth term, the party looked for a vice president who could succeed in the top job. Eighty-two days after the Inauguration, Roosevelt lay dead, and Truman took the top job.

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How Much Do Leaders Care?

It is true that no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care

  • A husband and father earns the right to lead his family by caring for his wife and children.
  • A minister earns the right to preach by caring for his congregation.
  • A physician earns the right to teach medical students and residents by caring for them, and the right to influence and even direct his patients by caring for them.
  • A commander earns the right to command by caring for his soldiers.
  • A manager earns the right to lead by caring for his employees.
  • A teacher earns the right to teach by caring for his students.
  • A king earns the right to rule and a prime minister or president earns the right to preside (exercise authority or control) by caring for his citizens.

Caring is not merely feeling benevolent emotions.  Actually, since emotions are merely a side effect of thoughts and actions, benevolent emotions are an outgrowth, not a cause or a definition, or caring.  Leaders who care do the following for those who follow them:

  • Learn about them
  • Pray for them
  • Encourage them
  • Talk to them
  • Listen to them
  • Rebuke them
  • Mentor them
  • Teach them
  • Be accountable to them

Integrity and Leadership

How important is integrity, really, in leadership? Why? How can we find leaders with integrity? We must begin with integrity in ourselves. 

In the fall of 1996, several allegations of sexual misconduct between Army leaders and their subordinates became public.  The ensuing investigations found many cases in which the allegations were true, and trust began to erode within and towards the US Army.  As a result, the Army sought to clarify and promote the values which have been at the heart of American military service for over 200 years.  Leaders felt that by emphasizing the values that we held, fought for and died for, they could produce a better fighting force.  The mnemonic “LDRSHIP”, pronounced as “leadership”, communicated what the Army was all about.

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