Category Archives: leadership

Google People Finder for the Earthquake/Tsunami

Talk about a fast and generous move from GOOGLE.

Share this tool to anyone/everyone who may be affected whether Japan, Hawaii, Cali or where ever


Good Luck, Bad Luck. Who knows?

Talisman/Omamori/Good Luck Charm
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The Chinese farmer

There is a Chinese story of an old farmer who had an old horse for tilling his fields. One day the horse escaped into the hills and, when all the farmer’s neighbours sympathised with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, ‘Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?’

A week later the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and this time the neighbours congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, ‘Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?’

Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, ‘Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?’

Some weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg they let him off. Now was that good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?



why do we need ranks?

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A while back one of my readers asked me to help him in a debate he was having with the leader of a military simulation group he was a member of (computer gaming or Airsoft I assume). This “leader” was apparently against assigning leadership positions because he believed that there was already a “natural leadership” in place. Some people took it upon themselves to call the shots and others followed and he did not want to upset this “democratic army”.

Now, my opinions of gaming and/or MilSim aside, I thought this was a good opportunity to try to define MY concept of leadership, rank and the necessity of is what I wrote.

A “democratic Army”…excuse me while I chuckle at that one. My drill Sgt. said in one of his first soliloquies..”This is the ARMY! This is not a democracy, it is a dictatorship and I AM THE DICK!!” Said for effect of course but there is truth in it. Effective military operations do not happen due to consensus.

If by “MilSim” you mean Airsoft or something of that nature then I guess you guys can run things any way you like, but if you are truly attempting to simulate a military unit than you should have a rank structure. ALL successful militaries, from the Romans to the US Military, have succeeded because of a clearly defined rank structure. Hell, a rank structure is what defines an “Army”…without one all you have is a mob. Rank structure is how an organization remains an organization. People come and go, they die, they retire, they get injured, they get promoted and move on. The “unit” remains because the rank structure provides…well…structure. Even with all new people it can operate as smoothly as it did before. In a “charismatic” group, when people leave it is no longer the same group in an operational sense.

I think your friend is confusing “leadership” with “command” (also known as management). Leadership is the process of influencing others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction, and motivation. The lowest ranking person can be a good “leader”. Command is the authority a person lawfully exercises over subordinates by virtue of his rank and assignment or position. An organization needs both.

Command is how you sail your ship. The Captain of a ship isnt given responsibility for a vessel because he stepped aboard and began ordering people around. Should the Captain be a good leader? Ideally yes. But in the end what matters is that someone with a modicum of skill and knowledge is vested with the authority to call the shots. That is done by defining someone as the Captain.

Ideally you put good leaders in position of command, but even with substandard leadership, goals can be reached as long as a command structure exists. Thats why you hear all of those WWII stories of privates winding up sergeants or lieutenants by wars end. As the leaders fall someone HAS to take their place. To operate, the command structure HAS to be maintained.

Sure 4-5 guys can get along with no defined “leader”..for a while…but when you are dealing with larger numbers of personnel you have to deal with a concept called “span of control”. For every 3-7 people (5 being ideal) you need someone in command of the group. Defined leadership is the only way to allow a large organization to act “as one”.

Do you routinely train by “killing” the leaders to see what happens? What happens when the “followers” disagree with the “leaders” orders in the heat of battle? With a defined structure you follow the lawful orders of those placed in command.No matter what your leader says, in the real world military/LE operations are not run by consensus.

Even in SAS/Delta..sure they are more flexible in the planning process and less strict in protocol, but you can bet your ass that they adhere to a “who is in charge” system (based on rank) when the green light goes on.

In the real world simply “being the leader” (natural or not) is what is required most of the time. I refer you to:

The problem with the “some guys are natural leaders” meme is the question, “how do you know what a good leader is?” and how do you really know that this guy is the best choice?

Most people I have run into who hold similar beliefs as your guy are usually reluctant to tell the bossy “natural leader” to step-off..or is friends with the “natural leader” and is afraid to rock the boat by assigning positions. Trust me, you will probably find that some of the people your leader thinks are not “natural leaders” would probably turn out better leaders than the guys he thinks are “naturals” if they are given the training and the opportunity to lead. Most of the time issues like this stem from EGO. In a well operating unit you follow the orders of your commander. And a good commander realizes that some of his subordinates may be better “leaders” than he is…and he uses them accordingly.


Combat Leadership: Sgt John Basilone

John Basilone, USMC, Medal of Honor, Navy Cros...
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Sergeant John Basilone
U.S. Marine Corps
Guadalcanal, 1942

In August, 1942, the 1st Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal, encountering stiff resistance from the Japanese defenders. Sgt John Basilone served as a machine gun platoon sergeant in support of Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.

On the night of 24 October, Sgt Basilone’s platoon occupied a key position in the battalion’s defensive perimeter on a jungle ridge. Just past 2130, the Japanese began a ferocious attack. In the dark rainy night, intense fighting followed, and soon the machine gun unit on Basilone’s right was overrun by screaming Japanese soldiers hurling grenades and firing rifles. At the same time, Basilone’s machine guns started running low on ammunition. Basilone knew that the enemy that had broken through on his right were between him and the ammunition dump, but he decided that if his gun teams were not resupplied, the positions would fall.

Sgt Basilone took off his heavy mud caked boots, stripped himself of all unnecessary gear, and sprinted down the trail. After returning with several belts of ammunition, he set out for the unmanned gun pits to his right, knowing that those heavy weapons were vital tools in the defense of the ridge.

When he got to the gun positions, he found the two unoccupied machine guns jammed, and ran back to get one of his own. He ordered a team to follow him. After Basilone’s gun crew reached their destination, he immediately put them into action. Basilone lay on the ground and began repairing one of the damaged weapons. Once the gun was repaired and loaded, he got behind the gun and began engaging targets. The fight raged on, and Japanese bodies began to pile up in front of the machine guns. At one point, Sgt Basilone had to direct his Marines to push back the piles of bodies to maintain clear fields of fire.

Several more times during the night, Sgt Basilone made trips back to the command area for desperately needed ammunition. Eight separate attacks were sent against the Marines that night, and Basilone’s platoon fired over 25,000 rounds. They were credited with killing an estimated 300 enemy soldiers, playing a major role in thwarting the Japanese attack. This successful defense reestablished the perimeter of the 1st Marine Division, protected the vital airfield, and led to the conquest of Guadalcanal, the first island taken from the Japanese. For his initiative,resourcefulness and leadership in defense of the ridge, Sgt Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor.


  • Tactically, Sgt Basilone understood his role in the defense of the ridge and the intent of the company and battalion commanders. His machine guns served a pivotal role in the company and battalion defense plan. He took numerous actions necessary to ensure his battalion’s success. This included making the decision to weaken one position in order to fortify an adjacent unit’s position to his right.
  • Sgt Basilone exhibited great leadership during the defense. He went to great lengths to provide his unit with whatever tools were necessary to maintain the defense of the ridge. His courage in braving enemy fire to deliver ammunition set an example for his Marines.


Lieutenant M.M. Obalde and Lieutenant A.M. Otero. “The Squad Leader Makes the Difference: Readings on Combat at the Squad Level. Volume I”

Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, 1998


Combat Leadership: Sgt Henry Hanneken

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Sergeant Henry Hanneken
U.S. Marine Corps
Haiti, 1919

Following serious rebel uprisings, the United States began a prolonged occupation of Haiti in 1915. Charlemagne Peralte was the leader of the rebel army, known as the “Cacos.”

The 2d Marine Brigade spent several months in unsuccessful attempts to topple Charlemagne’s group. Henry Hanneken, a sergeant in the brigade, devised a bold plan to separate Charlemagne from the bulk of his troops and ambush him. Sgt Hanneken sent one of his most reliable men to become a member of the Caco band. In a short period of time the infiltrator had earned the outlaws’ trust. Then Sgt Hanneken had his spy feed the Cacos the location of a Marine unit that was vulnerable to attack. Hanneken’s spy soon returned with information of a rebel plan to attack these Marines, as well as Charlemagne’s location during this attack.

On 31 October 1919, Sgt Hanneken led 22 local militiamen in an attack on Charlemagne. Disguised as rebels, Hanneken and his unit moved through several guard posts and boldly walked into the unsuspecting rebel camp. When he was within fifteen yards of Charlemagne, Sgt Hanneken drew his pistol, and shot and killed the rebel leader. In the fire-fight that followed, the small raiding party captured the rebel position and defended it from a series of counterattacks.

The Marines who were the target of the rebel attack had been warned by Sgt Hanneken of the impending strike and were well prepared for the rebel attack. The rebels were thoroughly defeated. The morning after the actions, Sgt Hanneken reported his exploits to his commanding officer. Hanneken’s actions had routed more than a thousand outlaws, killed their leader, and virtually shattered the entire bandit resistance movement in northern Haiti. For his actions, Sgt Hanneken was awarded the Medal of Honor.


  • Sgt Hanneken displayed outstanding initiative and tactical proficiency in devising and acting upon a plan to defeat a large rebel force. This plan supported the brigade’s mission in Haiti. Sgt Hanneken accepted great risk, but displayed the courage and nerve to see his plan through. His bold action achieved decisive results.
  • With a small band of men, Sgt Hanneken was able to defeat a larger rebel force by adhering to tactical fundamentals. His 22-man Main Effort attacked the enemy Center of Gravity, the rebel leader. Without leadership, the rebel force quickly disintegrated.
  • Sgt Hanneken used the elements of surprise and deception to execute his attack. Surprise is one of the most important tactical fundamentals and was essential to this tactical undertaking.
  • Sgt Hanneken’s actions illustrate how tactical decisions at the squad level can impact the operational and strategic levels of war, and can ultimately affect U.S. policy. Sgt Hanneken’s attack greatly affected the balance of power in Haiti, lessening the turmoil in the country. It was a major step towards ending the rebellion on the island.


Lieutenant M.M. Obalde and Lieutenant A.M. Otero. “The Squad Leader Makes the Difference: Readings on Combat at the Squad Level. Volume I”

Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, 1998


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Combat Leadersip:Alvin York

Alvin C.
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Corporal Alvin York
U.S. Army France, 1918

The Meuse-Argonne offensive was the last important battle of the First World War. On the night of 25 September 1918, over one million American soldiers moved up to relieve the French forces on the front lines. The American advance that ensued swept easily through the first two lines of German trenches, and then progress slowed. Facing stiff resistance, the reserve division was called up.

Cpl Alvin York served as an infantryman in the 82nd Division. York’s company started across a valley at six in the morning. As they began to move, the company came under heavy fire. From behind a hill, enemy machine guns mowed down the first wave of advancing Americans. No one knew where the deadly fire was coming from, so York’s Platoon Sergeant decided to take the platoon on a mission to find it.

The platoon found a gap in the enemy lines and circled to the rear of where they thought the machine guns might be. The group of Americans stumbled across two German litter bearers, whom they followed back to the headquarters of the machine gun battalion. The Americans walked right into the German machine gun command post, opened fire, and the Germans immediately surrendered.

Upon hearing the firing behind them, the Germans that were dug in near the command post swung their weapons around and began firing at the Americans. Caught in the open, in a hail of automatic fire, the Americans instantly took casualties. Cpl York took aim at the nearest machine gun, about 25 yards away, and killed the man behind the gun. He continued to fire at each German who popped his head out of a foxhole. After watching his troops being massacred by this lone sharpshooter, the German Major in command yelled to York, “If you’ll stop shooting, I’ll make them surrender.”

Within minutes, the remaining American troops had captured ninety German prisoners, but they were behind enemy lines. Cpl York took charge, and quickly organized his platoon. He decided to move back towards friendly positions, straight through the German lines. York ordered the German prisoners to carry back the American wounded. Every time the group came upon a German position, York told the captured German Major to order the troops to surrender. The well-disciplined German soldiers never questioned the order, and by the time York’s small band reached friendly lines, they had acquired 132 German prisoners. In their wake, York’s platoon left thirty-five deserted German machine gun positions and a significant gap in the German defenses.

This gap which York had created was a vital element to the success of the division’s advance. This advance gave momentum to the American forces, and contributed to the success of the Meuse-Argonne offensive.


  • Cpl York was quick to exploit the opportunity which had been created. He realized that his actions would affect the outcome of the battalion’s advance and made decisions which supported his commander’s intent. His strong situational awareness guided him in taking action which had decisive results.
  • After taking charge of the platoon, Cpl York led his unit back to friendly lines. His plans changed as the situation developed, but his decisiveness, improvisation skills, and leadership abilities enabled him to lead his withered platoon back to friendly lines while capturing 132 prisoners.


Lieutenant M.M. Obalde and Lieutenant A.M. Otero. “The Squad Leader Makes the Difference: Readings on Combat at the Squad Level. Volume I”

Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, 1998


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A must read leadership book

I just finished what I believe to be one of the best books on leadership I have ever read. It’s titled “The Mission, The Men and Me”, by retired Delta commander Col. Pete Blaber (Ret). Part memoir, part opinion on the military establishment and part leadership development book, “The Mission, The Men and Me” is written in an easy to read, down-to-earth style that I finished in two days.

The title encapsulates Mr Blaber’s theory on leadership decision-making. He believes that all decisions need to be made with three things in mind. The Mission, The Men under your command and your own self-interest; in that order. If you are told by a superior to do something contrary to accomplishing your mission and dangerous for your subordinates, or you will face punishment/termination…well if you have the guts to be a leader you know what you have to do.

Mr Blaber’s (an ironic name for a man writing about Delta I must admit) theory on operations and leadership is very similar to the way I look at things which I admit made me like his book right off of the bat. As did the fact that he was in Bosnia around the same time I was with SFOR (as a measly MP Sergeant, not SF), which I found “cool”.

Eschewing complicated planning, systems and operations, Col. Blaber subscribes to using simple concepts and rules of thumb such as:

  • The Mission, The Men, and Me
  • Don’t get treed by a Chihuahua
  • When In doubt, develop the situation
  • Imagine the unimaginable; humor your imagination
  • What is your recommendation?
  • Always listen to the guy on the ground

I will not explain all of the rules of thumb here, go get the book, but Blaber spends quite a bit of time on the last one. Always listen to the guy on the ground. In the book, Col. Blaber explains how our modern, high-tech military has resulted in a large number of leaders, military and elected alike, who believe that all the information and “situational awareness” they need can be had via satellite, drones, sensors and video screens and base their unbending, inflexible, unwavering decisions on them.

The problem with this approach is that images, signals, intelligence reports and tech data are meaningless without context. A taxi driver or shepherd can tell you exactly where your enemies sleep, eat, travel, and get their supplies. Soldiers forward deployed can get up-to-date intelligence and “eyes on the target”. They can discover things only a human can discover and they can adapt to the situation far better than a drone in orbit can. Leaders need to speak to people “on the ground”, both civilian and military, before ANY decisions are made. They don’t need to follow all their advice but they have to hear it. Instead what we have are leaders who are so “risk adverse” that they refuse to put “boots on the ground” to get live information, yet perversely seem willing to send soldiers to their deaths rather than abandon or change a pre-determined plan. We have Generals who make battlefield decisions from offices in Washington instead of from the field and seem to be uninterested in listening to what is going on “right now” from men in the field, as long as “the plan” is adhered to. These leaders are so locked into “the planning process” that they lose sight of how to adapt to changing situations.  Some of Col. Blaber’s stories of senior military officers refusing to believe what is right before their eyes will leave you scratching your head.

One of the other interesting things Col. Blaber points out about our military that I never thought of before, is our over-dependence and (in his opinion) misapplication of helicopters in ALL of our military planning. Choppers are large, loud, slow-moving billboards that can be heard a long way off and announce to everybody that we are coming. In Blaber’s opinion choppers make it all but impossible to achieve surprise on an enemy occupied target. Helicopters also demand a large “footprint” in terms of logistics, maintenance and manpower and they require weather that allows them to operate. Sometimes bad weather is our friend and sometimes driving and then walking into an area is the best way to catch our enemies with their pants down…in a snowstorm…when they are snuggling around a fire.

Lastly, Col. Blaber shares what I think is one of the most important leadership principles, that of asking your subordinates “what is your recommendation?” Instead of being the “know-it-all” whose job is to make all decisions, he believes that the leader should be relying on his subordinates experience, training, and “on the scene” information rather than micromanaging. Col. Blaber believes that leadership is about “managing” capable people and allowing them to do their jobs. The leader needs to co-ordinate and be sure that everybody is operating in concert, what he calls “having a shared reality”. Sometimes the leader has to override his subordinates suggestion but he always needs to seriously consider it. Pure gold IMO.

I’m not entirely drinking Blaber’s kool-aide, he is after all one of those “Type-A” SF types who can come off with a hint of “if they had only listened to me we could have won by now”. A great critique of the book can be found here. However, on the whole, this is a great book that anybody in a leadership position should read, study and apply. 5 stars.


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the art of war

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No blog about tactics, strategy or warriorship would be complete without a post about The Art of War, one of the oldest and most well known books on military strategy.

The Art of War is military treatise written in 6th century China by Sun Tzu. It is composed of 13 chapters, each one devoted to a different aspect of warfare. The Art of War was the definitive work on military strategies and tactics of its era, and is still one of the basic texts on the subject. It has had an influence on military thinking, business tactics, and many other fields. The Art of War is still studied by soldiers in many modern military schools such as the USArmy Command and General Staff College.

The English translation of The Art of War can be read here.


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