Dynamics of Leadership: going Ugly

By | October 19, 2019

[October 19, 2019]  It was a tough, brutally hot day back in August of 2006.  I was to meet my new “counterpart” in the Iraqi Army.  My task was to “Get to know him and see what his problems are.”  What I didn’t expect was that one of the Iraqi Brigade engineers had been horribly disfigured by an IED explosion.

Colonel Abdul S. was a man who had done it all.  He was from somewhere in Sadr City (within Baghdad), which made him a religious Shia, poor, and an outcast from Saddam’s military.  Growing up he had plenty of trouble with the Ba’athist Party, which had been the only real political party in Iraq for more than 30 years. Abdul had joined their army as a private but had to endure years of mistreatment at the hands of officers.

Working your way up in the ranks of any military is challenging and requires a certain set of leadership traits that are difficult to learn and hone.  Abdul got his first break late in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88).  He was leading a large group of men across a minefield to capture a railhead that had given his commanders trouble.  Nearly everyone was killed, but Abdul survived and accomplished his mission.  Many more successes would follow.

A fellow coalition partner from Australia told me that Abdul was the ugliest person he had ever seen.  Ugly was a kind word.  I will not attempt to describe Abdul’s face, but it is the kind that gives you an emotional shock when you first see him.  I was taken aback, and I’m used to seeing the results of gross war injuries.

Colonel Abdul was, however, a proven leader of men.  He was also highly respected because he could get the job done, no matter how dirty, difficult, or thorny the mission.  Abdul projected authority like I’ve never experienced.  Not surprisingly, he could put the most complex situation into understandable terms and convince anyone that they could tackle any problem with ease.

The dynamics of Abdul’s leadership was not based on his looks.  It was based upon his skills and reputation.  Everyone knew him.  Everyone loved him.  The connection he could establish was phenomenal, and to this day I cannot explain how such an outcast, ugly man could get so much done.  Colonel Abdul was the kind of man you wanted to be around because you knew – in the deepest part of your soul – that you were on the winning team with him.

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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.

17 thoughts on “Dynamics of Leadership: going Ugly

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      Maybe not crazy but Tulsi Gabbard is much better looking. In fact, Kamala Harris is UGLY.

    2. Wesley Brown

      I think Hillary Clinton started the discussion; not so sure. Ugly does matter.

  1. Scotty Bush

    A lot is written about your ‘looks’ and how it affects your status within a given organization. I remember a study by the US Army decades ago. There was a correlation (not causal as far as they could tell) between an officers height and their rank. The taller, the higher the rank. Interesting!!

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      There is a relationship but I think it’s rather small. True! We see ‘beauty’ as something akin to youth, healthy, smart. While we see ‘ugly’ as stupid, old, creepy.

    2. Harry Donner

      Your looks do matter. I don’t care what anybody says. If you are better looking, you are more likely to be accepted in employment, get a salary raise, and get more opportunities. This is not a new concept but as old as humans have been alive.

  2. JT Patterson

    Good stuff today, General Satterfield. Loving your website.

  3. Roger Yellowmule

    Great article. I was just sitting back with my dog at my feet and relaxing with a cup of java. Enjoyed every word of it.

  4. Janna Faulkner

    Hi there! Good article today that made me think. I was wondering where you were going with this idea. Were you going to write that being ugly has some inherent disadvantage? Or that ugly people will be discriminated against? I’m not so sure if this was relevant but I can say that I’ve personally seen ugly people denied jobs. During an interview, they won’t tell you that; perhaps that you are not “what we’re looking for.” Needless to say, not good to work in a place like that.

    1. Lynn Pitts

      I’m happy to work in construction where you are judged on your performance and not your looks (or dress). If you work outside in the winter and want to wear some of those fashionable pants, you will freeze. No one will tell you not to dress or look a certain way (unless you ask them).

    2. Nick Lighthouse

      Ugly/gross/repugnant ….. matters not to me. If you can do the job, then you are fine with me. If you are beautiful/handsome and you can’t get things done, you are a no-go in my book. Too bad most people are not like this.

  5. Wilson Cox

    In the military, especially the fighting arm of the military, I could understand that your looks don’t really matter that much. In fact, I would think the scarier you look, the better! I’m not a good looker and have experienced potential employers tell me that I just didn’t have the ‘appearance’ they are looking for to hire.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Yeah! Same here. I’m glad that I don’t work for these kind of organizations that determine your membership/employment based upon your looks. Oops, we tried that already and now we see it as racism. Ha Ha Ha Ha 😊

  6. Eric Coda

    It is a little hard to envision how his looks could be so emotionally shocking. I’ve seen ugly people. Maybe you mean “repulsive” or “revolting.”

    1. The Kid 1945

      I think you are right, Eric. Ugly might be too mild of a word to describe something so emotionally appalling. Good point.

    2. Albert Ayer

      Good comment. I too have had to work with some really ugly people but … repulsive? Perhaps not.

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