David Kuhns Sr.
Northwest Guardian Editor
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — It is a lot easier to define leadership than it is to define the attributes of a good leader.
A common thread of leadership is often taking care of Soldiers. Looking out for subordinates’ well-being is certainly an important consideration, but it always has to be tempered by the knowledge that accomplishing the mission might put those subordinates at grave risk.
Leaders must weigh the risks against the benefits of any decision they make. Sometimes those decisions lead to the death or injury of their Soldiers. That is the inevitable price of following the profession of arms.
Those who call for compassionate and caring leaders are correct, and wrong, at the same time. Army leaders need to focus on the greater good.
Feeling sorry for the troops when they are complaining about long training in bad weather might seem like the compassionate thing to do in the short term, but having the toughness to keep them at it even when they are cold, wet and tired can save lives later, when the enemies they face are real.
Many young Soldiers will insist that good leaders should always put the Soldiers first. That sounds good, and in some respects, it is true. When I was a young sergeant my platoon sergeant gave me some sound advice.
“Never eat until your Soldiers are fed, never sleep until your Soldiers sleep, never take a break until your Soldiers get one,” he told me.
He wasn’t advising me to place the Soldiers before myself out of kindness. Doing so was a calculated way to better accomplish what always came first: the mission.
Good leaders always place the mission first and look out for their troops, because the troops are key to mission success.
It’s hard to describe exactly what makes leaders good at what they do. But, you know the good ones when you see them.