20 May 2015

The weight on your shoulders

As we know, leadership carries with it more than just a title - it is comes with additional responsibilities. In a literal sense, these responsibilities should not be taken lightly. At times, that weight may be more than we can bear or sometimes it may even be absent. How much weight we should bear should be somewhat consistent with the position we hold.

As you are given your initial leadership duties, you tend to feel a deep sense of responsibility. Now you are responsible for those soldiers that are your subordinates. If you don’t feel this weight, I would start to question whether you are really accepting those responsibilities or just passing the weight off to another soldier. As you progress in your career, you should bear more weight as you are given more responsibility. If you are that leader whose last thoughts for the day are of your soldiers, then you understand what a tremendous responsibility you have. 

If this system is disproportionate, you will find that some leaders carry the weight of others. When you see a leader that is more concerned about his or her personal wellbeing, then you know that he/she passed that weight to another. You will often find a subordinate leader carrying the additional weight. If this behavior continues, roles and responsibilities will be blurred as the expectations and burdens will be passed to those that understand what it means to be a leader. The end result will be a subordinate carrying twice the load they should be. 

As a leader, the military expects much of you. You are there to lead your soldiers and set the example. Your soldiers will be able to sense your commitment to your position, or lack thereof. This could be no more evident than when GA Dwight D. Eisenhower took command for what would be the largest amphibious assault in history. To pass the time and get some perspective on his anxiety, GA Eisenhower scribbled a memoranda in his journal listing all of the things that were worrying him. “Probably no one who does not have to bear the specific and direct responsibility of making the final decision as to what to do can understand the intensity of these burdens,” he wrote.

Leadership does create burdens for soldiers. These burdens should be met with recognition that you are there for more than yourself. Others now depend on you. If you don’t willfully accept this, you may do more harm than you could ever imagine. Too much weight on a junior soldier could crush him as he is bearing that weight more than his own. If you don’t realize how much weight you should be carrying, you may not have enough. Too many gleefully move on in their career without realizing the impact they are having. Many of the duties are passed off to others while they may fail to realize what is really expected of them. This is the greatest disservice to our soldiers as a leader. 

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