Eternal Vigilance

By | October 9, 2021

[October 9, 2021]  Symbolic of the U.S. military’s reserve components (the National Guard and Reserves) is the “Revolutionary Minuteman,” who forever stands as a sentinel against this nation’s enemies. Our military forces stand ready to protect the United States, ever-present and dedicated to the future. This is what we can call vigilance, perpetually being present at the helm and watchful of troubles.  Leaders possess this trait of eternal vigilance; the ability to remain on the lookout for problems and opportunities.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” – Wendell Phillips1

To be vigilant, a leader must have the traits of persistence, presence, and patience. Any leader struggles to maintain one’s ability to remain focused over the long term. Whether running an organization as the acting CEO or temporarily organizing a group of people for a short-term purpose is far easier than remaining in place for the long haul.  Many a leader have achieved notoriety for quickly coming in to save a company from failure.  But it’s the leader who stays with the organization that is the real champion because it is that person who ensures things work.

It is indeed challenging to remain vigilant. That is why this is an essential trait of leaders. More junior leaders are not as likely to understand its precise value. Also, junior leaders are less likely to remain in any particular position long. But the senior leader, who has the task to see the future and possesses the vision, is the one who must keep his eye on that future to guide and mentor those who follow.

“And we ask the American people to play an important part of our layered defense. We ask for cooperation, patience and a commitment to vigilance in the face of a determined enemy.” – Janet Napolitano

Senior leaders recognize both the value of vigilance and also its difficulty. It is human nature to let one’s guard down, to lay back and relax. The difficulty of maintaining a high state of readiness has been well known to humankind throughout our history. There have been famous battles where the weak prevailed because the others failed to maintain their vigilance.

To Americans, we recall our history when General George Washington led a small band of Minutemen across the Delaware River to attack Trenton, New Jersey, on Christmas night, December 25, 1776. After the nighttime crossing, Washington’s forces attacked the Hessian troops, surprising them and quickly overwhelming their inadequate defenses. The surprise maneuver and the small victory gave the American colonies a much-needed boost in morale.

Eternal vigilance is a leader trait. Failure to maintain it can mean the difference between success in business and bankruptcy … or winning a battle as George Washington did on that night over 200 years ago.

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  1. Wendell Phillips’ quote comes from a speech he made on January 28, 1852. The speech was to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society that day. Often the quote is incorrectly credited to either John Philpot Curran or U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. Both of these gentlemen said something similar. See reference: http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2011/01/eternal-vigilance-is-price-of-liberty.html

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Please read my newest book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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

19 thoughts on “Eternal Vigilance

  1. Doc Blackshear

    I hate to keep being so negative but I think that the vast majority of people want nothing to do with being vigilance. Why? Simple reason …. it’s just too damn hard. Doing something hard means work and sweat and having grit. And, they would rather watch it on tv than actually do it. Pathetic, yes. Unexpected, no.

    Reply
  2. lydia truman

    I’m sure not to add too much to this discussion but I do want to note that I love this website and I read it every day to boost my understanding of how to be a better leader and better person.

    Reply
    1. Martin Shiell

      Good!! Hang in there, lydia. I for one am another person who can ‘see’ what is important and seeing vigilance is one of those.

      Reply
    2. Dale Paul Fox

      I think most of us do love it here and those that comment are like my distant cousins who are willing to help me, but only if I ask for help. Hey folks, have a wonderful day.

      Reply
  3. Greg Heyman

    “Senior leaders recognize both the value of vigilance and also its difficulty. It is human nature to let one’s guard down, to lay back and relax. The difficulty of maintaining a high state of readiness has been well known to humankind throughout our history. There have been famous battles where the weak prevailed because the others failed to maintain their vigilance.” Yes, Yes, Yes……. Gen. Satterfield, great job on this article. I recommend you carry the logic to the next level. I look forward to a newer and more detailed followup.

    Reply
  4. Cat A Miss

    Hey, Gen. Satterfield, congrats on your new book. I got mine in the mail yesterday and started reading it. Now my wife wants her own copy. Ha Ha Ha….. Just wanted to let you know that “Our Longest Year in Iraq” has a place on my living room’s coffee table and my friends are already asking about it. I just tell them to go to Amazon and type in your name or the title.
    https://www.amazon.com/Our-Longest-Year-Iraq-Construction/dp/1737915510/

    Reply
    1. Harry Donner

      If you don’t have a copy, go get it. I downloaded mine to my Kindle. Great book.

      Reply
    2. American Girl

      The more we read about Gen. Satterfield, the more we can understand him and why he does what he does.

      Reply
  5. Bryan Z. Lee

    Pow, once again, Gen. Satterfield nails it. I agree BUT I want to also note that this means a good leader must be able to recognize evil and not be swayed by pretty, attractive arguments that make one feel ‘superior’ to others. That is the first step to authoritarianism.

    Reply
  6. Max Foster

    Great post this weekend, Gen. Satterfield, so thanks for that. Yes, I do like the minuteman statue/painting/symbology of the guardian of freedom with the musket in one hand and his dry powder in the other. That is what Gen. Satterfield has written about when he notes that the “meek” shall inherit the earth. Meek does not mean weak but it means being ready to take on all comers.

    Reply
  7. Delf "Jelly" Bryce

    I agree, and this is why, in part, the FBI (and its sister the CIA and other intell agencies like the DOJ) have become so corrupted. People there are drunk with power.

    Reply
    1. Laughing Monkey

      And a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the United States. I agree with Gen. Satterfield that we must stand eternally vigilant, else we perish in the fires of socialism/commie land. The fantasy that big government is the solution is dead on arrival.

      Reply
  8. Nick Lighthouse

    Excellent article, Gen. Satterfield. We sadly re-learn this lesson over and over again. You would think by now we would figure this out. Let the commies into our country or just grow and look what you get. Socialism and communism can never exist on its own, it must be held up to the population thru tyranny.

    Reply
    1. Dead Pool Guy

      Socialism/Communism is immoral because it must be forced upon us. There is an old saying that you can vote your way in but you have to shoot your way out. Great. Gen. Satterfield is showing us the path. We must take the path of resisting this downward slide of America at the voting booth.

      Reply
      1. Andrew Dooley

        Yes, and excellent quote, I might add. 👍👍👍👍👍

        Reply
    2. Valkerie

      Humans will always make the same mistakes because we have a habit (a bad habit) of always thinking we are better than the next guy. General Satterfield is helping us see beyond that bad habit.

      Reply
  9. Colleen Ramirez

    In America, there is no doubt that we have let our guard down and socialism is now making a great comeback. I recommend reading the articles in DAILY FAVORITES, which will reinforce that point.

    Reply

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