Respect doesn't come from treating your soldiers kindly. It comes from your ability to lead by example. It comes from your competency at your job. It comes from getting your hands dirty because no matter what rank you are, participative leadership is your primary leadership style. It comes from placing the needs of your soldiers above your own. Being kind and not enforcing standards is selfish. Often, the need to be liked or to be the cool NCO/officer, is put before their soldier's need to survive. I would rather my soldiers respect me than like me. I want mine to say what a soldier said to CSM (Ret) Purdy when he left 1st Ranger BN, which was, "Sergeant Purdy, I hated to hear you come in in the morning, and sometimes I just flat hated you, but I would follow you to hell with gasoline drawers on.” Iron discipline and realistic training is what makes a soldier. Enforcers of iron discipline are what true soldiers want their leaders to be.
A true leader understands the ways of warfare. He understands the fact that there are always going to be people in uniform - officers, NCOs, and privates alike - who are going to be lazy. They are going to blow off training and they will cut corners. The true leader knows these are the people that will facilitate his ability to win the battle and bring his people home. A Greek philosopher named Heraclitus illustrates this point best. He said, “Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” There is also a great example of this ideology on warfare in the Bible. It is the story of Gideon's Army of 300. If you don't know this story and you are a combat leader, then you I suggest you read it. It can be found in the Old Testament Book of Judges, chapter 7:1 - 8:21.
A professional leader in the military understands that our job is the profession of death. It is either the enemies' death or ours, but the job is death. Everything we do, no matter what job we hold, is ultimately to destroy the enemies of our country. With stakes that high, I truly do not understand why any leader would want to do anything other then train; and not only train, but live it, totally immerse yourself into it. Some people call these soldiers "lifers" and they mean for this to be a derogatory term. The irony is that, if not being competent at your job means your death, then I am very proud to be called a LIFE-r. Survival on the battlefield takes dedication and hard work.
So now I must ask you, are you a “lifer” or are you a “target”?
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