Word of the Day Two, Part 2

Humility Part 2

I thought about my experience in the military with leaders and as a leader and how humility applied. My time in the military, I experienced a continuum from terrible leadership to excellent leadership.  The better leaders possed a sense of humility as well as other positive qualities.

The worst leader I served under was a captain in the Marines.  He worked the unit hard, which is fine.  But, he also treated his Marines poorly and with a lack of respect. He saw himself as surperior to others. His attitude was his unit is a reflection of him and mistakes were not tolerated.  He owned the unit. It’s hard to put into words what I observed him doing.  “A Few Good Men” is not just a movie.  He indirectly ordered several junior Marines to “take care” of another Marine and “handle the problem.”  Three people beat the crap out of the “problem.”   The unit had the highest rate of non-judicial punishment, one courts marital, lowest reenlistment rate, and lowest promotion rate.  He taught me how not to be a leader.  

The best officer I served with was in the Army Reserve.  He viewed his commission as a way to help Soliders succeed- not only in the military but also with civilian goals. Of course, meeting mission was required as well. Do your job. He will oversee the NCOs under him.  He expected respect but he gave it as well.  He was humble. He never saw his juniors as “less than.”  Of course, he also had the other skills needed. He gave me an example of how to lead.  You don’t need an iron fist to accomplish the mission.

I spent 17 years in the military, both active time and reserve.  I led as both an NCO and a commissioned officer.  The leadership responsibilities between officer and NCO are different but birth vital.  I sought to be a positive leader.  I saw myself both as the person responsible for the Soliders and tasks but also as a mentor.  I viewed my troops as individuals with strengths and weaknesses.  My job was to build on the strengths and help them improve the areas of weakness.  I suppose I took the leadership example from Chaplain Ott.  But, it also matched my personal views of respect for others. I wasn’t a complete pushover.  I disciplined troops when necessary.

It was an adjustment for me when I became an officer.  I was used to providing training and being very interactive with junior troops.  I applied this as an officer.  An NCO pulled me aside on day and asked me if I had a problem with the NCO leadership.  I was rather surprised.  She provided the feedback about being too involved with the day to day training of the troops.  I honestly hadn’t thought about it.  I was still being an NCO.  In a way, that could be seen as arrogance or lack of trust when it was inexperience as a junior officer.  Humility was apologizing to my NCOs and telling them that I wasn’t in their lane out of a lack of trust but just being an NCO first.  I trusted them to tell me if I was “going NCO” on them.  

Humilty is recognizing mistakes, taking responsibility, and trying to correct the problem.  It also means recognizing that anyone can teach you a lesson, even if they are below you in rank or perform “menial labor” if a civilian. Even the most menial jobs contribute to the community in some manner.  

How do you handle leadership?  It is a trust given.



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