Lead By Example SSG Alfred J. Stringer NCOA Abstract This paper makes the argument that the examples set by leaders will directly affect the actions and overall effectiveness of their organizations. Morality and upholding the Army Values and the basic principles of the United States of America are paramount principles of character that leaders should possess. Subordinates will many times copy and mirror their leaders so it is critically important for superiors to set good examples.
Soldiers who observe leaders not living up to the Army standards lose faith with the organization and suffer morally from the bad example. The conclusion states that personal as well as professionally moral leader will improve the community and country. Keywords: morality, credibility, example It is a proven fact the character and example of leaders directly affects their subordinates, and their actions. “Leaders set an example whether they know it or not. ” (FM 6-22) This statement has proven true through all human history.
Modern problems and increasing national insecurity demand strong moral leadership. The character and examples set by upcoming leaders will shape future generations and lead us into the unknown future. The question is, are the examples being set by our local, state, national and professional leaders, good or bad, moral or immoral, responsible or not, and how is it affecting society and our respective organizations? Leaders are constantly evaluated and critiqued by his subordinates. Even the most accepting and supportive soldier will make mental notes on the faults of their superiors.
Those soldiers, when receiving orders from a bad example leader, may follow orders and do so without question, but as the soldier observes the discrepancies in their leader’s character, the respect for the leader and overall moral of the soldier will eventually decrease. Subordinates want and expect competency, integrity and loyalty from their leaders. They want to believe that the leader not only has actually experienced what they are going through, but also is willing to walk in their boots. I submit it is impossible for the hypocrite to effectively lead soldiers. The NCO creed states “I will always place their needs above my own. The leader who lives by a strong moral code, one who follows and hold true to the seven core Army values will be respected and loved by his troops. Unfortunately there are countless examples of leaders who place personal gain, petty rivalries and short term satisfaction over their integrity and responsibility to their subordinates and the overall mission or organization. The current situation in Washington is a very good example of this. It seems daily there is another story of ethics violations, sexual misconduct or out in out illegal activities from the United States senators, representatives and high level employees.
These kinds of leaders, who set a bad example, open the door for their subordinates to follow in their footsteps and replicate the deviant behavior. The Army Sergeant First Class, who openly disrespects his senior leaders, will open the door for subordinates to follow his example. When he openly lies, is caught drinking and driving or makes excuses for his actions, he has in effect, destroyed his credibility with his troops. Even worse, his younger counterparts observe and make assumptions and assume this is how things are run in the organization.
When his actions are brought to light and the First Sergeant and Commander do not hold the SFC accountable, it shows younger soldiers that Army values really do not mean anything, and inevitably produces more ethics violations. It only takes one unchecked bad example to poison an entire organization. An effective military leader is willing to put themselves into harm’s way for their troops. The Platoon Sergeant who protects his subordinates, is willing to share their burdens, who lives a moral life, and who keeps and upholds the standards, will undoubtedly earn the respect and admiration of his soldiers.
Napoleon was a good example of this. As a young general he would often perform tasks during a battle that were the responsibilities of the officers below him. When his troops would face direct fire, he would be in the thick of it. Some accounts placed him loading cannons which were a corporal’s job. He went wherever he was needed. When the battles were over and Napoleon would many times rise up sweaty, dirty and covered in gun powder. There are accounts of Napoleon taking money out of his own pocket to take care of his troops and their families.
This won the respect of the men around him. . He became a legendary figure for his troops and set a great example for his men both enlisted and officer alike. (Jean-Paul) A superior’s personal life can be just as important to his subordinates as his professional one. The leader, who upholds his marriage vows and family responsibilities, will show his subordinates he is not only an effective military leader, but also a successful husband and father. Everyone knows that person who is an exemplary soldier but who is severely lacking in his personal moral standards.
This is the soldier who at work is the epitome of military discipline, but in his personal conduct, whether it is adultery, alcohol abuse, or other actions does not uphold the values he swore to uphold. Subordinates will look at his example, whether it is good or bad, and first justify their own actions and then, even attempt to replicate it. Placing soldiers who are tactically, technically and morally proficient, will improve the organization, teach by example and uphold the standards the Army and the United States of America claims to uphold.
A team of influential leaders, by their good example will encourage their subordinates to be a better balanced, effective and moral person. This will produce a more responsible citizen, create happier and more secure families, and in turn strengthen the community and country as a whole. References FM-6-22 Army Leadership, October 2006 Jean-Paul, Ralph: Napoleon Bonaparte’s Guide to Leadership, www. potential 2success. com, http://potential2success. com/Napoleonbonaparteleadership. html