All You Have to do is Follow the Rules

By | August 4, 2018

[August 4, 2018]  A recent indecent in my family motivated me to write about how to get along smoothly in any organization.  All of us have belonged to a variety of organizations in our lifetimes (e.g., work, school, family, military, church) and perhaps we’ve had difficulty along the way.  All you have to do is follow the rules and most obstacles will be moved out of your way as you move to success.

When I was in U.S. Army Basic Combat Training back in 1974, a fellow trainee and friend of mine used his 30 minutes of free time to go to the Post Exchange (PX).  He bought a Combat Jump Wings badge which he thought was pretty neat and then affixed it to his army cap (he was not authorized to wear it).  As soon as the Drill Sergeants saw him (I’m a witness), all hell broke loose.  The yelling and screaming went on for what seemed like hours.

Break the rules and the results can be rather unpleasant.  It is rare that senior leaders break rules; not the big rules anyway.  Senior leaders got where they are by following rules scrupulously and deviating from a rule only after careful weighing of the risks.  Following the rules is, by far, this is the most common path to success.

There will always be individuals who chose to deviate from or don’t know the rules and violate them unintentionally.  A senior leader rarely uses any excuse for disobeying organizational rules.  Perhaps they think they know better, or that the rules don’t really apply to them, or the rules are antiquated, discriminatory, or serve no valuable function.  Any given reason they might to disobey a rule is of much lesser importance than a disobedient act.

A leader who is new to an organization is often in no position to judge the value of organization rules. If you’re new and you don’t like the rules, then you made a poor judgment to begin with by getting involved.  If you don’t know the rules, then it is your responsibility to learn them.  If you chose to disobey them and have not considered carefully the risks, then you deserve what you get.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “All You Have to do is Follow the Rules

  1. Mr. T.J. Asper

    General Satterfield, you are providing a great service to our community of new leaders. It is most educational and (as others have noted) is practical in the application of each and every article. My entire High School class and football team are now reading it.

  2. Forrest Gump

    Nicely written on a basic, yet important subject that is more and more ignored.

  3. Nick Lighthouse

    I always find this website to be informative for practical, every day application of serious leadership topics.

  4. Dale Paul Fox

    I see many readers of this blog have noted that the value of obeying the rules and “why” we have rules. I’m glad I read this blog daily.

  5. Bill Sanders, Jr.

    Yes, I agree with others that too many young people are apt to violate rules because they have been too cuddled. They show an amazing lack of resilience. Gen. Satterfield writes about resilience in this blog and I recommend you go back and read some of them. He’ll make you think a different way on this subject.

  6. Greg Heyman

    I keep reading this website and I like it because of the value it brings to me and my sons.

  7. Tony B. Custer

    When I was younger, I thought rules in the workplace were there just to harass people like me. I’m black and so I had this chip on my shoulder. I thought the rules were only for me and others could ignore them at will. Well, listen up … I was wrong … terribly wrong. Thanks for your blog on leadership, General Satterfield.

    1. Wesley Brown

      So did I. Tony, you are spot on with this comment.

    2. Ed Berkmeister

      You would have to be stupid and nutjob to not follow the rules. Even those employees we call ‘rebels’ adhere to the vast majority of the rules. They just pick and chose which ones to not follow and are careful about it. However, they also understand that violating rules could mean the termination of their job.

  8. Anita

    What I like about this leadership blog is that I read consistently good advice. Some of it is for senior leaders to remind themselves they are not above the rules and some of it is to teach junior leaders.

  9. Shawn C. Stolarz

    Another good article. Thanks, Gen. Satterfield. 😉

  10. Yusaf from Texas

    There are many of us, especially Texas-loving folk, who are careful about disparaging the rules and violating them just to show we can. However, there are many in our colleges and universities that are the opposite. We call them “snowflakes” because they melt as soon as reality hits them in the face.

  11. Andrew Dooley

    I always followed the rules as a kid because my mom or dad would punish me severely if I did not. As an adult, like is more complex. There are times when you have to violate the rules. When my wife was having a baby, I admit to running a few red lights on the way to the hospital. Now, I was careful and looked to ensure nothing was coming but I was not waiting for another minute if I didn’t have to.

  12. Martin Shiell

    This is the end result of the 1960s when all things hard were thrown out the window. Don’t work hard, someone will take care of you. The ‘government’ cares about you so don’t worry. There is a safety net for everyone. Welfare is good. I’m okay, you’re okay. Jane Fonda is a hero. /sarc off

    1. Janna Faulkner

      Good comment Martin. I think you might have identified the beginning of what we are now seeing in most Western nations.

  13. Max Foster

    I agree with you Army Captain. I’m no psychologist but I think that its due to the upbringing of kids these days. They are told they are the greatest and can do no wrong. They are always being bailed out of problems by their parents or relatives and are propped up by their teachers in school. Discipline is lax. Teaching is confined to unimportant, govt required things and not moral issues or citizenship. No surprise to me that this is occurring.

    1. Delf A. "Jelly"

      Well said, Max. More folk need to pay attention and correct those who step away from the idea that rules are made for the well-being of us all. Rules are perfect but they work. As adults, we have to be smart enough to know why.

  14. Army Captain

    Yes, amazing that the number of people nowadays that don’t believe rules are made for them or that rules actually have a purpose.

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