[November 15, 2014] Attending the U.S. Army Infantry School as second lieutenants, we were introduced to the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier. Despite its introduction into Vietnam 20 years earlier with tactical success, it was still plagued with a few problems – notably a weak engine, difficult maintenance, and limited weapon systems. Many of us complained about the weaknesses but our TAC Sergeant told us it had “saved my ass in Nam.” End of complaints.
The best senior leaders recognize that the real world is imperfect and have learned to accept it for what it is. There are a few important things in life a good leader can influence. It is expected that action should be taken when a leader can make a difference. This is a professional imperative.
Leaders understand the reality of their organization; the people, their mission, equipment, and training. They understand that occasionally things fail, there are deficiencies in the way things are done, and that great care is often needed to keep it going. Great leaders know what they can and should do and concentrate their efforts there. All human-designed systems and procedures are imperfect and require continuous human intervention to keep things on track.
All the more reason that successful leaders make a conscious decision to identify items that are essential for the organization and work hard to effect positive change. Many believe this to be the epitome of a great leader. So important is the concept that careers are made on communicating the best way to do it and we call these “business management practices.”
Calmly accepting the real word for what it is can be beneficial. All of us have known people who spend their time and money trying to change something that cannot be changed. Leaders should work to avoid such a trap. Leaders should thus concentrate their efforts on the important and accept the real world for what it is. This does not mean we should not tackle the most difficult problems or attempt to make right a wrong even when it seems impossible.
Today, the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier1 is being replaced by the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle – more powerful, easier to maintain, and with greater firepower. The M113 deficiencies were identified well before my Infantry class went through its training and a new design for an improved Infantry vehicle was approved and built.
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 The current M113 has a diesel engine that is much improved over the original M113’s gasoline engine which lacked power and was much more dangerous. Today, the M113A3 version is still in service and has a much improved drivetrain, simplified maintenance, and is more reliable. For more on the M113: http://www.army-guide.com/eng/product3237.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M113_armored_personnel_carrier. Over 50 years later, the M113 has nearly been replaced by the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle.