Leadership by Sgt. Angus Gordon of Darkmoon


The treatise/tirade below is my take on Leadership. It has been developed over 20 years 2 months and 17 days in the United States Army. This was a piece I turned in as an essay to earn the Commnad Sergent Major Kreckle Leadership Award in the Basic Non-Commisioned Officers Course in 1987. I have edited it foe SCA use, although not much. I beleive every word of it and it's content and execution served me and my soldiers greatly when the stakes were higher than having to walk to the sidelines and watch the rest of the fight. If any of you like, you may cross-post this to any list you desire, but try to give me credit. It's all old soldiers like me have left :-)

Leadership is the art of influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation. The end state being the accomplishment of the mission and improving the individual/unit/ group. To throw out a word like “leadership” and have it mean the same thing to all people is difficult without first understanding the methods modes and definitions of the elements of Leadership.

Influencing. Influencing is basically getting people to do what you want them to do. Its purpose is to achieve two end states: operating and improving. Simply passing along orders is NOT leadership, nor is it influencing. The example you set is just as, if not more important than the things you say. Leaders set an example, good or bad, every time you take a step, or say a word. Through your words and your example, you must impart purpose, direction, and motivation to your subordinates.

Let’s take these three and distill them down further.

Purpose. Purpose gives people a reason to do things. This doesn’t mean that as a leader you should explain even the most minute details of every decision you make to your subordinates, but it means that in order to effectively lead them you must earn their trust in your ability to make decisions, solve problems and take care of their welfare. Additionally they must trust that you will not put them in situations of grave danger unless doing so was the only way to accomplish your assigned mission.

Direction. When providing direction you must effectively communicate what needs to be accomplished, the priority of the things that need to be accomplished, assign responsibility for getting things accomplished (delegating your authority when necessary) and ensuring that everyone understands the standard to which things need to be accomplished. Basically you figure out what needs to be done, and how to get it done with the personnel, time and resources that you have available. Again providing direction, like purpose IS NOT merely echoing orders from a higher Commander. Most people want direction, if they don’t know how to do a task, they want to be taught, they want to have the resources necessary to complete the task, then they want to be left alone to accomplish the task. Leaders sometimes micro-manage. If a leader finds himself micro-managing his subordinates he is outwardly showing them that he doesn’t trust them to accomplish the mission. It also shows that he lacks confidence in their abilities.

Motivation: Motivation is the willingness to do everything possible to accomplish an assigned mission. Motivation results in subordinates acting on their own initiative when the recognize something that needs to be done. In order to motivate people, leaders must challenge their abilities nobody revels in boredom. If you know your units and your people, and know their abilities you will understand how to influence them to achieve greater and greater things. Give them all of the responsibility that they can handle, employ them within their capabilities, and then let them get to it. A good leader will not stand over his subordinates shoulder and watch every move he makes, he will allow his personnel or units the autonomy to accomplish the mission within the established standards and parameters without micro-management. When they succeed give them praise, if they fall short, point out what they did right, and train on what they did wrong. Nobody fails on purpose. Personnel and units that are led and trained in this fashion will accomplish their mission even when no one is watching.

Now that we have discussed the three elements of “influencing”, we can define the end states, operating and improving.

Operating. The actions taken to influence others to accomplish the mission are operating actions. An example of operating actions is: a commander ensures his units/people are on the line and ready with the proper equipment before the start of a battle through preparation and planning, execution, and assessing.

The preparations are the training that has taken place, the planning is all the planning that has taken place for to begin the mission, execution is the actual conducting of the operation, and assessing takes place after the operation has concluded.

Improving. Through assessment of the last completed operation, systems can be developed and put in place to improve the unit performance and capabilities. The most effective tool to act on lessons learned is the After Action Review (AAR) The AAR is used to brief the Mission, the plan, what went right, what went wrong, and what we learned. It concludes with a brainstorming session in which everyone participates in order to improve unit performance.

There are eleven principles of leadership. They are (in no particular order) Know yourself and seek self improvement, be technically and tactically proficient, seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions, make sound and timely decisions, SET THE EXAMPLE, Know your soldiers and look out for their well-being, Keep your soldiers informed, develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates, ensure that all tasks are understood, supervised and accomplished, Build the team, Employ your unit within it’s capabilities.

There are four indicators of good leadership.

Proficiency, Discipline, Cohesion, and Morale. These are very outward signs of a very internal science.

Think about it.