Category Archives: leadership

who’s side are you on anyway?

I’ve been doing this “leadership” think for a while now. I’ve done the NCO thing in the military, I’ve moved up the supervision chain in LE, etc.

While I hesitate to speak from a position of “expertise” on leadership ( I always feel like I’m still learning), there is an aspect of it I seem to see time and again that I would like to discuss and that is  the confusion over “where your loyalty lies”.

In a nutshell the question is this. Are you a representative of management there to “keep an eye on things”, implementing your superiors policies and looking for “violators”? Or are you a “representative of your men” who looks out for their welfare and protects them from the wrath of your bosses? This issue is sharpest for that mid level leader like a Sergeant or Lieutenant who has direct contact with “the grunts”.

In my opinion this is the first hurdle every new leader seems to face. If not understood it can become an entrenched mindset throughout their career, and only becomes magnified the higher up the leadership ladder they climb.

Of course…as with any complex issue, the reality is never as black and white as I paraphrased above. A good leader has to realize that he has a foot in two worlds. It’s your job to make the ship go in the direction your superiors want it to go…you are not “one of the guys” anymore. However, you are never going to be the “leader of men” I would hope you want to be if you look at the people actually doing the work as drones vs “your people”.

I look at it like this:

ideal

With superiors above you and subordinates below you you can look at yourself as an “advocate” for either side. Ideally you want to span a place somewhere in the middle. It’s your job to implement the decisions of your superiors AND it’s also your job to look out for the welfare of your subordinates (both personal and professional welfare) and to be a representative for them when dealing with your superiors.

suckup

If you tend to be a leader who “sides” with your superiors in all situations, with no interest in standing up for your subordinates when you believe that a new policy is wrong, or that punishment being levied is unfair or excessive you will be seen as a suck up at best or a tyrant at worst.

If your boss tells you to “write someone up” for something you don’t believe they did wrong, do you just do it? Are you always afraid that if you argue or disagree with your boss that you may harm your chances for a promotion? Are you “scared” of your boss so you just do what your are told with no regard to your personal opinions of right or wrong? You are placing yourself and your concerns over those of the people you are responsible for.

Of course there is the flip side:

oneboy

Are you afraid of being disliked? Do you avoid difficult discussions or dread delivering orders that you know are necessary but are going to be disliked? Do you overlook things because it’s easier than dealing with them?

You can’t be “one of the boys” either. Part of your job is being the person who has to do the tough thing when it comes down to it. If you don’t act like a leader your career as one will either be short lived or come to a dead end.

My suggestions? You have to look at yourself and make an honest appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses. A person who, in their heart of hearts, knows that they tend to be “one of the boys” has some hope. He/She knows that they have a weakness and that’s the first step to correcting it. Small changes over time is usually the best remedy vs trying to become a “hard ass” overnight. It’s the people who sincerely believe that their subordinates are simply people to step on in the climb for advancement that are the real problem.

And in conclusion:

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be careful who you trust

Martial Arts
Martial Arts (Photo credit: Tom Gill.)

A martial arts acquaintance of mine recently posted the following quote on a social media site:

“Only act with honorable people. You can trust them, and they you. Their honor is the best surety of their behavior even in misunderstandings, for they always act according to their character. Hence, it is better to have a dispute with an honorable person than to have a victory over dishonorable ones. You cannot deal well with the ruined, for they have no hostages for rectitude. With them there is no true friendship, and their agreements are not binding, however stringent they appear, because they have no feelings of honor. Never have anything to do with such people, for it honor does not restrain them, virtue will not, since honor is the throne of rectitude.” -Baltasar Gracian

Reading that got some wheels spinning in my head. The first association I made was with a previous post I authored here called “Learning good things from bad people”. There I addressed the issue of people overlooking the character flaws of some Martial Arts instructors because they believe that they can separate a teachers “issues” from the “good stuff” they teach. That post ended with the following:

What is the deciding factor that determines what you will overlook for that “good training”? Is it money? Is it just that the guy is close by..he’s “there”?  Is what he’s teaching really THAT much better than anybody else can show you? Is it because the instructor/style that you have invested a lot of your time, your money, and to some extent your “self” in is involved with this person?

Where do YOU draw the line?

In another mindstream I was mulling over a study I discovered a few years ago called Instructor-Student Commonalities in the Martial Arts: Leadership Traits and Similarities by Martin Thomas McGee. A snippet of this study states:

In a rigid social hierarchy, like martial arts, it would make sense that people would become more similar as a function of time, because everyone’s situational experience is relatively the same within the dojo. However, this hypothesis is not supported by Sylvia and Pindur (1978). Their findings suggest state that socialization takes place early and is independent of time and rank.

Martial arts schools are hierarchal, indoctrination-like social systems. Because of their rigidity, participants share the same experiences. Also, during this same time, modeling of super-ordinate positions occurs. These in-class experiences and modeling yield similar personalities among members. These similar personalities contain leadership qualities, such as a high need for cognition, strong locus of control, and strong motivation. Due to the subjective and reflexive nature of evaluation, those who have leadership qualities most similar to their instructors will be promoted to the next rank. Those who lack leadership qualities similar to their instructor will not be promoted. Not being promoted has nothing to do with being liked by the instructor, but not being qualified by displaying the attitude of one who is to be promoted to a higher rank. Or, because of this lack of attitude similarity as perceived by the student, there are differences in values that cause him or her to withdraw from classes. Hence, time “weeds out” those who are dissimilar from their instructor.

In other words, the “leadership”/instructors of a system are naturally self-selected from people who share personality traits with the head instructor.

In my opinion, the hangers-on of some of these teachers…even though they may deny it…are picking their side despite their assertions that they disagree with an instructors character but desire the skills nonetheless.

a bad decision now?

Thinking RFID
Thinking RFID (Photo credit: @boetter)

I have heard the “a bad decision now is better than a good decision later” meme spouted in places as varied as military NCO schools, police academies and SWAT sources as advice to individuals. I think people who say stuff like that need to be clear that this applies in special circumstances… primarily “life and death” moments. I know a few people who would probably still be alive if they had slowed down and thought about what they were going to do before they did it.

drink and forget

“As you climb toward the throne of Command, on the very first step of success, you will come to a strange fountain where people try to slake the thirst of ambition. One of that fountain’s strange, contrary effects is that it makes us forget the past. I saw people drink from it and forget their former friends and acquaintances: witnesses to their former lowliness. They forgot even their brothers and sisters, and one drinker was such an arrogant barbarian that he did not recognize the father who engendered him, deleting from his memory all obligations, all favors received, wanting to be a creditor, not a debtor. Those who drank wanted to borrow, not to return. They forgot even themselves, and now that they were on the high seas, could barely remember that they had been spawned in puddles. They forgot all that could remind them of their dust and dung, all that would make them lower their feathers. They drank up ingratitude and affected gravity and remoteness, and wafted up strangely to their thrones, unable to recognize others, or recognize themselves. That is the way that honors change customs.”

-Balthazar Gracian

never confuse movement with action

Action (supermarkets)
Action (supermarkets) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It is even better to act quickly and err than to hesitate until the time of action is past.” -Karl Von Clausewitz

I’ve seen/heard/read variations on this sentiment over the years and I agree with it on a conceptual level. If you hesitate when you need to act it can mean the difference between mission success or failure…or life and death.

What I’m less clear on is what happens with this saying on a practical level. WHEN is it better to act quickly? Always? Is it always better if you don’t hesitate? Will your boss support you if your actions result in an unsuccessful outcome? Will the military, the media, the government back you if your act on the battlefield results in civilian casualties?

I’m not asking if they SHOULD back you. That’s an entirely different matter.

I think this concept is situation dependent…if bullets are flying and you have to move, that’s different from considering your next step in a barricade call-out.

I also think that this idea can be expressed in a metaphor of a street fight. There are always two considerations in a self defense situation…the immediate issue of survival and the need to act within the scope of the law. While the first should always take precedence, failure to consider the second can turn survival into a Pyrrhic victory.

In my opinion the only way to approach crisis decision making is to have a solid grasp on the “higher order” concepts; tactics, law, ROE, etc and ingrained physical skills that don’t overburden your thought process. Hopefully you get to road test these skills enough so that experience will allow you to adapt your training to the chaos.

planning vs execution

Ballpoint pen writing. Streaks of ink are visi...
Ballpoint pen writing. Streaks of ink are visible on the ball, indicating the direction of rotation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something I learned when I crossed the rank barrier into “administration” is that 99% of the game lies in actually getting the thing done. There is always a lot of talking, planning and meeting but less “doing” than what could be done. It’s always easier to plan than it is to execute.  I try to actually get something “done”… if not daily, than at least weekly.

From the leadership side of the coin, some leaders are better at planning operations than they are at carrying them out. When it comes to operations things never go as planned..Clausewitz called this “friction” and he had the following to say about it.

This difficulty of accurate recognition constitutes one of the most serious sources of friction in war, by making things appear entirely different from what one had expected. The senses make a more vivid impression on the mind that systematic thought – so much so that I doubt if a commander ever launched an operation of any magnitude without being forced to repress new misgivings from the start. Ordinary men, who normally follow the initiative of others, tend to lose self-confidence whey they reach the scene of action. Things are not what they expected, the more so as they still let others influence them. But even the man who planned the operation and now sees it being carried out may well loss confidence in his earlier judgment; whereas self-reliance is his best defense against the pressures of the moment. War has a way of masking the stage with scenery crudely daubed with fearsome apparitions. Once this is cleared away, and the horizon becomes unobstructed, developments will confirm his earlier convictions, this is one the great chasms between planning and execution.

-Clausewitz, C.V. (1984). On War. P. 119-120

What he’s saying (in essence) is that some leaders go in with a plan and when the @#$% hits the fan they start to second guess their plan and loose confidence. This friction causes some leaders to abandon their plans and start to lead reactively..which is rarely good because reactive leadership seldom takes the whole picture into account, it tends to obsess on stamping out fires.

Clausewitz also said:

In short, most intelligence is false, and the effect of fear is to multiply lies and inaccuracies. As a rule most men would rather believe bad news than good, and rather tend to exaggerate the bad news. The dangers that are reported may soon, like waves, subside; but like waves they keep recurring, without apparent reason. The commander must trust his judgment and stand like a rock on which the waves break in vain. It is not an easy thing to do. If he does not have a buoyant disposition, if experience of war has not trained him and matured his judgment, he had better make it a rule to suppress his personal convictions, and give his hopes and not his fears the benefit of the doubt. Only thus can he preserve a proper balance.

Don’t panic..don’t abandon your plan…develop the situation, get things done.

Of course..I can only hope that I adhere to this advice myself. Like I said from the beginning..”its easier to plan than it is to execute”…it’s also easier to give advice than it is to take it.

The Way of George Washington

George Washington
Image via Wikipedia

and it may truly be said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great.

– Thomas Jefferson, about George Washington, 1814

By age sixteen George Washington had copied, by hand, the 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. Based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits, they were most likely copied by a student Washington as part of an exercise in penmanship. A study of Washington’s life will show that the rules, and the environment that fostered these beliefs played a large role in the sort of man that Washington became.

To today’s ears, many, if not all of these rules, may sound somewhat silly. It’s easy to dismiss them as relics of an age gone by, believing that our society has moved past the 18th Century and all that they thought and believed in.

However, if one takes the time to read and ponder on these 110 Rules, they will quickly see that their focus is on other people rather than on our own self-interests. A focus that too many of us seem to subscribe to these days and perhaps a fault that bears reconsideration.

I believe that many martial artists and people interested in martial history become so enamored with exotic philosophies and cultures that they miss the richness of history available in their own countries traditions. I mentioned in a previous post that the M4 rifle and pistol are the equivalent of the Katana and companion sword to todays warrior. Perhaps the Kentucky Rifle and the Tomahawk are the ancient weapons of the American Warrior and Rodgers Rangers Standing Orders and the 110 Rules are our Hagakure and Budoshoshinshu?

THE 110 RULES:

1st Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

2nd When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.

3rd Show Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.

4th In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.

5th If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside.

6th Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.

7th Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed.

8th At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.

9th Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.

10th When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.

11th Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.

12th Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs roll not the Eyes lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by approaching too near him when you Speak.

13th Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexterously upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.

14th Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.

15th Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Showing any great Concern for them.

16th Do not Puff up the Cheeks, Loll not out the tongue rub the Hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them or keep the Lips too open or too Close.

17th Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Play’d Withal.

18th Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unasked also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.

19th Let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.

20th The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.

21st Reproach none for the Infirmities of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.

22nd Show not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

23rd When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always show Pity to the Suffering Offender.

24th Do not laugh too loud or too much at any Public Spectacle.

25th Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremony are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.

26th In Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen, Justices, Churchmen & make a Reverence, bowing more or less according to the Custom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Person. Amongst your equals expect not always that they Should begin with you first, but to Pull off the Hat when there is no need is Affectation, in the Manner of Saluting and resaluting in words keep to the most usual Custom.

27th Tis ill manners to bid one more eminent than yourself be covered as well as not to do it to whom it’s due Likewise he that makes too much haste to Put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to Put it on at the first, or at most the Second time of being asked; now what is herein Spoken, of Qualification in behavior in Saluting, ought also to be observed in taking of Place, and Sitting down for ceremonies without Bounds is troublesome.

28th If any one come to Speak to you while you are are Sitting Stand up though he be your Inferior, and when you Present Seats let it be to every one according to his Degree.

29th When you meet with one of Greater Quality than yourself, Stop, and retire especially if it be at a Door or any Straight place to give way for him to Pass.

30th In walking the highest Place in most Countries Seems to be on the right hand therefore Place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to Honor: but if three walk together the middest Place is the most Honorable the wall is usually given to the most worthy if two walk together.

31st If any one far Surpasses others, either in age, Estate, or Merit yet would give Place to a meaner than himself in his own lodging or elsewhere the one ought not to except it, So he on the other part should not use much earnestness nor offer it above once or twice.

32nd To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the chief Place in your Lodging and he to who ‘is offered ought at the first to refuse it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.

33rd They that are in Dignity or in office have in all places Precedency but whilst they are Young they ought to respect those that are their equals in Birth or other Qualities, though they have no Public charge.

34th It is good Manners to prefer them to whom we Speak before ourselves especially if they be above us with whom in no Sort we ought to begin.

35th Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.

36th Artificers & Persons of low Degree ought not to use many ceremonies to Lords, or Others of high Degree but Respect and highly Honor them, and those of high Degree ought to treat them with affability & Courtesy, without Arrogance.

37th In speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at lest Keep a full Pace from them.

38th In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physician if you be not Knowing therein.

39th In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.

40th Strive not with your Superiors in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.

41st Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Professes; it Savours of arrogance.

42nd Let thy ceremonies in Courtesy be proper to the Dignity of his place with whom thou converses for it is absurd to act the same with a Clown and a Prince.

43rd Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.

44th When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.

45th Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Show no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness.

46th Take all Admonitions thankfully in what Time or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time & Place convenient to let him him know it that gave them

47th Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break [n]o Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasant abstain from Laughing thereat yourself.

48th Wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.

49th Use no Reproachful Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.

50th Be not hasty to believe flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.

51st Wear not your Cloths, foul, ripped or Dusty but See they be Brushed once every day at least and take heed that you approach not to any Uncleaness.

52nd In your Apparel be Modest and endeavor to accommodate Nature, rather than to procure Admiration keep to the Fashion of your equals Such as are Civil and orderly with respect to Times and Places.

53rd Run not in the Streets, neither go too slowly nor with Mouth open go not Shaking your Arms kick not the earth with your feet, go not upon the Toes, nor in a Dancing fashion.

54th Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well Decked, if your Shoes fit well if your Stockings sit neatly, and Cloths handsomely.

55th Eat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out of Season.

56th Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ‘is better to be alone than in bad Company.

57th In walking up and Down in a House, only with One in Company if he be Greater than yourself, at the first give him the Right hand and Stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him, if he be a Man of Great Quality, walk not with him Cheek by Joul but Somewhat behind him; but yet in Such a Manner that he may easily Speak to you.

58th Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for ‘is a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern.

59th Never express anything unbecoming, nor Act against the Rules Moral before your inferiors.

60th Be not immodest in urging your Friends to Discover a Secret.

61st Utter not base and frivolous things amongst grave and Learned Men nor very Difficult Questions or Subjects, among the Ignorant or things hard to be believed, Stuff not your Discourse with Sentences amongst your Betters nor Equals.

62nd Speak not of doleful Things in a Time of Mirth or at the Table; Speak not of Melancholy Things as Death and Wounds, and if others Mention them Change if you can the Discourse tell not your Dreams, but to your intimate Friend.

63rd A Man ought not to value himself of his Achievements, or rare Qualities of wit; much less of his riches Virtue or Kindred.

64th Break not a Jest where none take pleasure in mirth Laugh not aloud, nor at all without Occasion, deride no mans Misfortune, though there Seem to be Some cause.

65th Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.

66th Be not froward but friendly and Courteous; the first to Salute hear and answer & be not Pensive when it’s a time to Converse.

67th Detract not from others neither be excessive in Commanding.

68th Go not thither, where you know not, whether you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice without being Asked & when desired do it briefly.

69th If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrained; and be not obstinate in your own Opinion, in Things indifferent be of the Major Side.

70th Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belongs to Parents Masters and Superiors.

71st Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of Others and ask not how they came. What you may Speak in Secret to your Friend deliver not before others.

72nd Speak not in an unknown Tongue in Company but in your own Language and that as those of Quality do and not as the Vulgar; Sublime matters treat Seriously.

73rd Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.

74th When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speech be ended.

75th In the midst of Discourse ask not of what one treateth but if you Perceive any Stop because of your coming you may well intreat him gently to Proceed: If a Person of Quality comes in while your Conversing it’s handsome to Repeat what was said before.

76th While you are talking, Point not with your Finger at him of Whom you Discourse nor Approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face.

77th Treat with men at fit Times about Business & Whisper not in the Company of Others.

78th Make no Comparisons and if any of the Company be Commended for any brave act of Virtue, commend not another for the Same.

79th Be not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof. In Discoursing of things you Have heard Name not your Author always A Secret Discover not.

80th Be not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless you find the Company pleased therewith.

81st Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others neither approach those that Speak in Private.

82nd Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise.

83rd When you deliver a matter do it without Passion & with Discretion, however mean the Person be you do it too.

84th When your Superiors talk to any Body hearken not neither Speak nor Laugh.

85th In Company of these of Higher Quality than yourself Speak not til you are asked a Question then Stand upright put of your Hat & Answer in few words.

86th In Disputes, be not So Desirous to Overcome as not to give Liberty to each one to deliver his Opinion and Submit to the Judgment of the Major Part especially if they are Judges of the Dispute.

87th Let thy carriage be such as becomes a Man Grave Settled and attentive to that which is spoken. Contradict not at every turn what others Say.

88th Be not tedious in Discourse, make not many Digressions, nor repeat often the Same manner of Discourse.

89th Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.

90th Being Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your Nose except there’s a Necessity for it.

91st Make no Show of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat.

92nd Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.

93rd Entertaining any one at the table, it is decent to present him with meat; Undertake not to help others undesired by the Master.

94th If you Soak bread in the Sauce let it be no more than what you put in your Mouth at a time and blow not your broth at Table but Stay till Cools of it Self.

95th Put not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife in your hand neither Spit forth the Stones of any fruit Pie upon a Dish nor Cast anything under the table.

96th It’s unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat Keep your Fingers clean & when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.

97th Put not another bit into your mouth till the former be swallowed. Let not your morsels be too big for the jowls.

98th Drink not nor talk with your mouth full; neither gaze about you while you are drinking.

99th Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily. Before and after drinking, wipe your lips; breath not then or ever with too great a noise, for its uncivil.

100th Cleanse not your teeth with the table cloth napkin, fork, or knife; but if others do it, let it be done without a peep to them.

101st Rinse not your mouth in the presence of others.

102nd It is out of use to call upon the company often to eat; nor need you drink to others every time you drink.

103rd In the company of your betters, be not longer in eating than they are; lay not your arm but only your hand upon the table.

104th It belongs to the chiefest in company to unfold his napkin and fall to meat first, but he ought then to begin in time & to dispatch with dexterity that the slowest may have time allowed him.

105th Be not angry at the table whatever happens & if you have reason to be so, show it not; put on a cheerful countenance especially if there be strangers, for good humor makes one dish of meat a feast.

106th Set not yourself at the upper of the table; but if it be your due or that the master of the house will have it so, contend not, least you should trouble the company.

107th If others talk at the table, be attentive but talk not with meat in your mouth.

108th When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously & with reverence. Honor & obey your natural parents although they be poor.

109th Let your recreations be manful not sinful.

110th Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

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my latest read

Cover of "The Virtues of War: A Novel of ...
Cover via Amazon

I’m currently in the last third of Steven Pressfield’s The Virtues of War, which tells the story of Alexander the Great’s campaigns across Persia from the first-person perspective of Alexander himself.

I’ve written about Pressfield before and first became aware of him when I read The Gates of Fire, the historical fiction retelling of the Spartan stand against the Persians at Thermopylae. Pressfield, a former US Marine, has become sort of an authority on classic military history, the warrior, and leadership on the battlefield. His books routinely address the role of the leader, the human dynamic on the battlefield and what it is about combat that has captivated humans..mainly men..throughout our history. Since I’m reading it on a Kindle, I have been highlighting passages I find interesting with the intent of discussing some of them here. For example…

On decision making:

How is one to command? By consensus of his subordinates? Listen indeed. Weigh and evaluate. Then decide yourself. Are you stumped at the crossroads? Pick one way and don’t look back. Nothing is worse than indecision. Be wrong, but be wrong decisively. Can you please your constituents?  never let me hear that word! The men are never happy with anything. The march is always too long, the ways too rough. What works with them? Hardship. Give your men something that can’t be done, not something that can. Then place yourself at first hazard.

This sentiment is nothing new and I have heard/read similar in various places. I have to say that while I agree with it in general ( it IS the leaders job to make decisions), there are varying degrees of “damn the torpedoes full speed ahead!!” leadership.

I understand that in the context  of the book the decisions mentioned are battlefield decisions. The question is “How is one to COMMAND?” When lives are at stake and you are the leader, yes, indecision kills.

But to take the lesson from the war-room to the board-room, so to speak, the spirit of the passage, while still important, can be taken too far and turn you into a little Napoleon. Not every decision has to be a “Because I’m in charge and I say so” affair.  As anyone who has ever experienced a Second Lieutenant fresh out of ROTC can attest to, the pressures of leadership combined with inexperience can lead to interesting situations with the senior NCO’s who posses the experience but not the rank.

Personally, being in a leadership/supervisory role, I sometimes ask myself if I am being decisive enough, is this a situation where I need to take COMMAND, or would doing so only be because I feel like I should SHOW that I’m in charge vs actually accomplishing a goal? Sometimes the inner talk, self-expectations and wondering what others think are a greater leadership burden than the actual requirements of the job.

I think that the nack lies in knowing your mission first and foremost and doing what’s required to see that its accomplished. Sometimes that means knowing the difference between the decisions that need to be made immediately (take that pillbox or pass it?) and those that you can table and think over for a while.

Combat Leadership: Lt. Audie Murphy

Audie Murphy, highly decorated 3rd Infantry Di...
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Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army, Company B 15th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Holtzwihr France, January 26, 1945.

Entered service at: Dallas, Texas. Birth: Hunt County, near Kingston, Texas, G.O. No. 65, August 9, 1944.

Citation: Second Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by six tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad that was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued his single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way back to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack, which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.

 

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the little tests

Wimberley zip lines- a recreational destinatio...
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I have mentioned in previous posts that I subscribe to the idea that:

A man’s ordinary life at peace reflects his courage or cowardice just like a mirror…Having the least bit of spare time, he will put his mind to Learning, and not be negligent in his practice of the martial arts…He will protect his health fully and will keep in mind the desire to perform at least once in his life a great meritorious deed.

-Bushidoshoshinshu

It’s my opinion that a person should, on occasion, test themselves. Large, life altering tests are not as necessary as frequent, smaller tests.  These “little tests” can be as simple as; speaking up when you see something wrong, being the person who takes the lead when it’s obvious that everybody else is looking for someone to make the first move, making a public speech, etc.

In this day and age there are also many opportunities to test your “gut” in a relatively safe manner. There are numerous adventure and X-sport opportunities out there to test your mettle; rock climbing gyms, skydiving schools, SCUBA courses, etc. I recently had the opportunity to do a high angle “adventure” course. You may have seen them, cargo net climbs, wire/plank bridges between elevated platforms, zip lines.

Now, I’m not claiming that doing stuff like this is somehow going to guarantee that you will perform well under stress, or make you magically courageous (my daughter and niece went on this course with me btw) but any opportunity to associate that little twinge of fear with fun is an opportunity that you can use to prove to yourself that you CAN override fear and do what needs to be done.

I look at opportunities like this as a chance to “practice” those things that you don’t/cant practice by shooting at targets or even by trading simunitions with another living person. There is no (or very little) pushing past actual fear in a lot of tactical/weapon training, you get to fantasize about what you “would do” in real life, but it’s still just training. There is a reason why most military boot camps run their recruits through “confidence courses” and obstacle courses…and it isn’t to train them to perform common soldier tasks.

What I found interesting in this latest excursion was the ratio of young people to adults. It’s somewhat amusing how many parents will let their kids do the course but will pass on doing it themselves. Granted, youth has long been known to be more adventurous, but where is the line between adventure and the over-cautiousness of adulthood?

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