[October 7, 2019] My brother was about 10-years old and didn’t understand when our dad said that the “yard needed mowing” and he owned it. To him that meant belonged to him – literally – but of course that was not the case. Dad meant that my brother’s job was to mow the yard anytime the grass got too high, and he was to mow it without being told to and without supervision.
In the military, we say the same thing. The parallels are striking between a military mission and my brother taking care of our yard. My dad understood, as do military leaders, that if everyone is not on-board with the mission, then the leader (my dad) has failed. When everyone owns the mission, each person has an investment in the outcome. This drives internal motivation right down to the newest member of the team.
Leaders who own the mission and do not take the appropriate steps to ensure everyone else does too will ultimately fail. When this occurs, everyone loses. I remember a time when a senior U.S. Army Sergeant told me that I was not sufficiently involved in our mission. I had, to use his terms, “no stake in the game.” Therefore, if anything were to go wrong, I would not be the one to steer the unit back onto the right mission path. I would be failing my soldiers.
I learned a great deal from First Sergeant “Spooky” McHugh’s guidance. This would not be the only time he provided much-needed guidance to a junior Lieutenant. Years later, he would help train many of my Infantry Company’s soldiers before going into combat. To “own” the mission doesn’t mean sitting back and letting others do the work; it means having a bias for action and shouldering responsibility.
My brother was also required to pick-up any trash, trim the weeds near the fence line, report any problems to dad, and oversee the condition of the grass and grounds. Such responsibility was significant, and my brother struggled for a whole year to carry out dad’s task for him. For this, my brother got paid 25 cents per week. After some time had passed, my brother finally understood, and for that he has been grateful. This was a time of personal growth as children; something no one should forego.