The motto of the U.S. Army’s Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia is “Follow Me!” The school majors in LEADERSHIP, LEADERSHIP, and LEADERSHIP. Erected in front of its headquarters building is a statue of an infantry leader caught in mid-stride who is clutching a rifle in his left hand and signaling with his up-raised right arm for those behind to follow. Appropriately, the caption at the foot of the statue is “Follow Me!”
At Fort Benning infantry officers are quickly taught that pointing, suggesting, and threatening are not the same as leading. Many years ago a Colonel of Infantry summed it up in these words, “When men die, and in war some must, you can’t manage them to their death, you must lead them there.”
Leadership is not just about making the right decisions. It is about personally getting out in front when the bullets are flying and persuading others to leave their places of safety and to join you in the fighting, in bringing death to the enemy.
In addition to setting the example through leading, a real leader instills within his subordinates the knowledge and the feeling that that they and their unit are riding the crest of the wave of success and that if they follow their leader they will all be “winners.” They will not only become winners, they will set the standard for others to emulate.
Great leaders are not those who simply follow instructions, orders and the rules perfectly; they are those who when all else fails, can put the pieces back together, fix the problem and make things work.
There were many occasions during my thirty-four plus years as a combat leader in the U.S. Infantry when I took command of failing military units and nursed them back to good, sound health. I did it so often that it became one of my specialties. One of the principles I followed was to not assign blame or responsibility for failure to those leaders who preceded me.
To succeed as a leader you have to be big enough to accept the whole blame and responsibility for a unit’s failures, to set the unit’s failures squarely on your shoulders and to walk and talk as if they did not exist.
Principles of leadership are not dogmas or doctrine; they are not just a set of rules. They are the foundation stones upon which all other things rest. They are formed out of unselfishness, morality, virtue and personal moral restraint.
Historically, everywhere we look we see that America was founded on such principles. They were not just adopted by our Founders; they were lived. That is what a study of the lives and character of our Founding Fathers, of men like George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Adams and Patrick Henry tells us.
Now is the time once again for national leaders of all political parties to stop the blaming and finger pointing. It is time to clear the air and agree that whether we and the President like it or not he is our leader, he is responsible for everything that happens or fails to happen during his Administration; good or bad, right or wrong, including properly handling those projects left or turned over to him by the previous Administration.
The President was elected to lead the nation and solve its problems. He should either do that or turn the nation over to someone who can.
Ask George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan. None of them wanted what they got, but none of them blamed others for the state of affairs they inherited. They were elected to lead, to solve unsolvable national problems, and to evaluate and re-establish priorities, and that’s what they did.
As America’s leaders they did not preen, dodge and weave, find fault, assign blame or avoid responsibility. It is cowardly for a national leader, who on his own has failed to lead, to pass that failure on to the American people.
Until now, Americans have never been asked to be cowards or failures. It is too late in our history, and we’ve come too far, to accept that assignation now. If the President can’t fix things, he needs to turn the helm over to someone who can, and not blame his personal failure on the American people.
From noon on inauguration day until the present time, presidential actions should have focused on encouraging economic growth, reducing the size and spending of the federal government and keeping the government out of the way of private business. Somewhere tucked into every speech given by every member of the administration should have been mentioned the need for a balanced budget, job creation and energy independence.
Writing in 55BC, Rome’s great leader Cicero could have had this current administration, with its lack of sound leadership, in mind when he wrote, “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become corrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”
Speaking of leaders and leadership, our armed forces deserve a Commander-in-Chief who understands that the success of the nation’s foreign policy relies on the power of its military, not the length of its negotiations, and that the goodness of America lies in the hearts and minds of its people, not in the cleverness of its bureaucracy.
The President is requiring too much sacrifice from too few of our citizens. To really face up to our worldwide military commitments requires a significant increase in the numbers or soldiers, sailors and airmen on active duty. If this means a draft has to be instituted, so be it. There are worse things. So is this really the appropriate time to reduce military medical benefits and pay?
Today, soldiers are sent to the Middle East for their third, fourth and fifth combat tours. Somewhere around their third or fourth tours the chances are that their luck will run out and they’ll come back in a body bag. It is strange that the Commander-in-Chief doesn’t mind sending them to die, but he doesn’t want to pay the cost of their medical care should they be wounded and require long term attention.
Congress should require Obama to go to Walter Reed Army Hospital and face the soldiers whose legs and arms have been blown off and tell them and their families to their faces why they don’t merit pay raises and free medical care. That is the sort of thing a real leader does. And when he does, if necessary the members of our armed forces will respond by climbing out of their hospital beds and following his lead.