[June 18, 2019] It seems like yesterday that I joined the U.S. Army. That was 45 years ago, and my thinking hasn’t changed much since then. My values remain largely unchanged, and my commitment remains rock-solid. What has changed, however, was my devotion to the discipline necessary to succeed and my understanding that only through discipline can we gain the trust of others.
“If you want me to trust you to do the right thing, then you must show me discipline.” – Anonymous
The linkage of discipline and trust was something I was slow to appreciate. Like any soldier, I wanted my buddies to trust me. I also needed confirmation that leaders in the military had enough confidence in me to allow me to work unsupervised and with little guidance. Procrastination was the enemy of those desires; something I forever had to steel myself to overcome.
Did I have the discipline to get into good physical shape and pass the Army’s Physical Fitness Test? Could I score the maximum points to show my sergeants I had the fortitude? It would take time and a lot of time to get ready. This was my first lesson that showed how discipline could instill trust. No discipline meant no trust.
Fortunately, I passed the Army’s PT test and scored the highest in my unit. I missed the maximum points by only five push-ups and therefore failed to meet the goal I had promised to obtain. Two months later, I scored a maximum grade. Despite being only a Private (the lowest of ranks), I had gained the respect and admiration of leaders in my unit.
Things changed for me. I was brought into leadership conversations more often by my Team Leader. New and more interesting missions were tasked to me. I was given other Privates to supervise. Yes, I had to show I would succeed, but it all began because I showed that I had the discipline to do the hard work necessary to prove myself.
The path was not easy. Passing a PT test was not the only thing I had to do. Showing a positive attitude, for example, was helpful (and not easy to maintain all day). My room and my uniforms had to be perfect. I had to show that I was willing to work hard, think smart, and respect everyone around me. Easy? Nope. But I did it and was given a Letter of Commendation by the Company Commander upon my departure. I still have his letter.
If you don’t have the discipline to do a good job, you will not be trusted. Leadership means learning many lessons. Remember this one.