Old but Good Professional Guidance!

By | November 30, 2017

[November 30, 2017]  This morning I was flipping through a favorite book that I’d bought in 1983 just after being commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.  The book, the 42nd Edition of The Army Officer’s Guide, is probably one of the best overall books providing countless lessons for the junior leader.  Those lessons from 40 years ago are old but remain good professional guidance!

Today, I will not be providing a book review; that is for another time.  What is important is to give insight into some of the more core competencies that it outlines for the junior army officer (or any junior leader).  During today’s age where many reject the military, principles outlined in the book are worthwhile to highlight.  Many responsibilities for the leader are unchanging.

Here I wish to make a point – and to repeat it for emphasis – is that the professional military individual (or any profession for that matter) has three primary responsibilities:

“First, to give his honest, fearless, objective, professional military opinion of what he needs to do the job the Nation gives him.

Second, if what he is given is less than the minimum he regards as essential to give his superiors an honest, fearless, objective opinion of the consequences.

Third, and finally, he has the duty whatever the final decision, to do the utmost with whatever is furnished.” – General Matthew B. Ridgway (1961) as quoted in the 42nd Edition of The Army Officer’s Guide, 1983 edition

The essential leadership ingredient that makes this possible is integrity.  It is the personal honor of the individual; the selfless devotion to duty which produces outstanding performance in the discharge of assigned missions.  This explains the tough position taken by the military whenever any of its officers violate this basic leader tenet.

Some folks these days reject integrity as an anachronistic idea without much merit and actually encouraging people to lie, cheat, and steal. Politicians are leading this effort but Western cultures have doubled down and consider those who possess integrity as “suckers” who are out of touch and are not keeping up with 21st Century modern culture.  Yet without integrity, there can be no path to accomplishing those professional responsibilities.

When General Ridgway spoke those words regarding the fundamental code of conduct for all officers, he had recently been the commander of the U.S. Eighth Army in the Korean War.  He had seen firsthand how the U.S. Army had become infected with lazy leadership resulting directly in lost lives of Allied personnel.  He put into action this guidance.  We should listen closely to what he had to say.

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