Leadership by Example, A Military Perspective

Posted on March 28, 2010


Leadership by Example” is a phrase that can often be found on the creeds and pledges of many military organisations all around the world, and for a very good reason. Due to the unlimited liability of military leaders, the responsibilities for not just the careers and development of the soldiers under them but the very lives of their subordinate, they are placed in a position where their leadership skills and abilities are of utmost importance, and leading by example may well make a difference between a successful mission and a massive bloodshed.

Let’s face it. Putting oneself in harms way and risk dying for the beliefs of a nation may be what a soldier deem honorable, but it certainly isn’t instinctive. Be it in peace time or war time, when we entrust a soldier with a weapon and task him to defend what we believe in, there’s probably got to be a vortex of confusion going on in his head, as he is left torn between the call of duty and honour, and loosing the life he knows and breaking the hearts of his loved ones. Thoughts of doubt, uncertainty, anguish and fear will definitely be swimming at the top of his mind, and the reasons for abandoning their call of duty may easily be overshadowed by their sheer reluctance to leave behind all they know. At a time like this, strong leadership is absolutely essential in bestowing the soldier with the necessary strength to carry on.

Leading by example shows a soldier that his commander cares. When a commander voluntarily gets his hands dirty ad puts himself on the line, the soldier will immediately be able to feel a connection with the commander as he understands that the commander cares enough that he is willing to fight alongside him rather than stay within the comforts and safety of his authority. Leading by example shows a soldier that his commander understands. When the soldier sees his commander doing the same things that he does, he will know that the commander understands the hardship of whatever he commands the soldiers to do and hence trusts that the orders are reasonable and necessary in the higher scheme of things. Leading by example shows a soldier that his commander believes. By putting his own life on the line, a commander is able to send the message across that if he has faith enough in the mission to risk his own life, he must be optimistic of their success to do so and hence rally the soldiers to do likewise.

The reassurance, confidence and connection leading by example gives the soldiers will enable them to have faith in the leadership of the commander and summon the strength and faith to commit themselves and their lives to achieve mission success. This makes leadership by example among the most powerful tools on the arsenal of leadership that may be used to unite a team towards a common belief and garner unfaltering commitment to the cause.

Having said this, what leadership lessons, then may we draw from leadership by example, the military way? What similarities can we find in the military leadership and workplace management? How may we apply this valuable leadership lesson to our workplace and even our daily lives? Discovering the answers to these questions may well allow us to gain unwavering commitment from our team towards achieving our goals and produce massive results!

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