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What Leaders are Learning

Leaders Honor Veterans

Leaders Honor Veterans

Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. This week, our nation honors its veterans for their service to country on Veterans Day. This celebration has become even more public as of late as our veterans shrink in numbers with less than 1 percent having served our country. The civil-military divide continues to widen, a subject the former Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen has sounded the alarm on repeatedly. As we honor veterans this week, what can we learn from them?
First and foremost, veterans exude trust, arguably the most important leadership trait there is. William Ayot says it best in his famous poem “The Contract”: ‘We give them our trust. We give them our effort. What we ask in return is that they stay true.’
The military remains one of the most trusted organizations in America. Six percent of America trusts the media and nine percent trust Congress. Yet, 73 percent trust our military, this despite occasional scandals, long conflicts overseas, and other tensions. Most probably take the view that fellow citizens willing to risk their lives for others are authentic...are real. In addition, most Americans realize that service members have stringent core values that serve as a foundation of their existence. These core values like excellence and integrity play out in the actions and motivations displayed on the battlefield. Recently, Captain Gary Rose was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions as a brave medic pulling soldiers from the burning wreckage of a helicopter he crashed in during the Vietnam conflict. He refused treatment until everyone else was treated and cared for. His men trusted him. He is a leader.
Beyond core values, military members are taught dependability, loyalty and adaptability. Every military member goes through the crucible of basic training where yelling, discipline and task accomplishment are driven into the military members. I learned how to make a bed to bounce a quarter off not for the importance of that feat but rather to learn how to take directions, and dutifully carry them out. Consistency, accomplishment and dependability build trust. Our US military of over 1 million members accomplishes these actions daily at home and abroad, and this is why the “bank of trust” for US military has deepened over the years. In watching the acclaimed Ken Burn series Vietnam, it became clear the breakdown in trust between military, civil society and even between military members was core to the tragic outcomes displayed throughout the TV series.
As we honor our veterans and their families this week for their service and sacrifice, may we also seek to emulate their core values in our own organizations. A good place to start is reviewing and/or developing core values which should bolster mission and vision. Second, leaders should ensure dependability and loyalty within their teams. While simple, these military rules of the road extend back to our first days of the Army on the frozen plains of Valley Forge. If applied routinely, the routine generates trust. This Veterans Day, let us remember there should not be a divide between military and civilian because collectively we march to same drummer — we build our teams by instilling trust.
Ayot reminds us:
And in the end we follow them –
not because we are paid,
not because we might see some advantage,
not because of the things they have accomplished,
not even because of the dreams they dream
but simply because of who they are:
the man, the woman, the leader, the boss,
standing up there when the wave hits the rock,
passing out faith and confidence like life jackets,
knowing the currents, holding the doubts,
imagining the delights and terrors of every landfall.
We follow veterans because of who they are. Leaders honor veterans.
“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country's cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.” ― Abraham Lincoln