Follow the Leader … well, not so fast

By | February 7, 2019

[February 7, 2019]  I had only been command of my new Infantry Company for a little over a month but my boss (the Battalion Commander) already didn’t like me.  He said I was “too bold.”  One day we were to convoy back to Fort Hood, Texas from a local training area.  My company was last (eat me dust) in line.  I noticed that all the units took a turn onto the local highway going the wrong way.  The question in my mind was, should I follow the leader or should I follow the correct route.

Often, it is easy to follow the leader because they are good at what they do, they are correct legally, ethically, and morally, they have extensive experience, and it is the right thing to do.  Real life, however, doesn’t always present us with easy choices.  That is why leadership is the grease that helps the gears of leadership keep turning.  That “grease” is good decision making; even when the choices are not always that clear.

Follow the leader is also a kids’ game.  Yet, it teaches us some useful skills in listening carefully, asking questions, and the advantages of being a good follower.  Such basic pre-adult skills translate into a better grown-up later in life when challenges present themselves unexpectedly.    We also learn, through a series of hard knocks, that it’s not always a constructive idea to blindly follow just any leader.

It is said that to be a good leader, one must also know how to be a good follower.  And while that is surely true, this is only the case when a person can accurately judge the actions of the leaders we follow.  The quality to properly judge is necessary for personal growth and future happiness.  Only those who follow with loyalty, honor, and integrity can become a true leader.  For instance, we would not want to follow a leader who has done things that are evil.  Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and a string of others like them go to illustrate my point.

On that day, decades ago as a junior officer, as my Infantry unit was to travel back to our base, I made a choice.  I chose to ignore the rest of my battalion (which had gone the wrong way).  In the lead vehicle, I had my unit follow me.  My soldiers were the first to make a Battalion Refuel Point and the first to get home.  Of course, I was admonished for not following the Battalion in the wrong direction.  But because our published Operations Order had the proper route that I followed, I was let off the hook and my soldiers loved it.

There are gray areas in leadership and there are times when a decision must be made with little time and under stress.  It is best to have the relevant experiences to make proper judgments.  That day, I made the right choice and confirmed a valuable lesson in leadership.

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.

20 thoughts on “Follow the Leader … well, not so fast

  1. Anita

    I agree that we should use good judgment and the help of others in our quest for better leadership skills. What we should also be doing is improving our own abilities so that we can: 1) recognize evil and problems when we see it and 2) study solutions.

  2. Albert Ayer

    Thank you Georgie. I read them and they were okay. I liked Gen. Satterfield’s blog post better.

  3. Maureen S. Sullivan

    How do you know if you’re dealing with someone who is truly evil?

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      Evil people will not accept responsibility for their actions. They lack empathy and enjoy manipulating others. They blame everyone for their failures. They often have an exaggerated self image of themselves. They pretend to be good and altruistic, but it’s all about appearances for them.

      1. Andrew Dooley

        They also torture and kill people. Just look at the evil dictators of the Twentieth Century or those throughout history.

  4. Lynn Pitts

    Evil people are controlling. They’re liars.
    They delight in misfortune. They make you feel weird on the inside.
    You know the worst part about it all?
    They aren’t ever sorry for the things they do and the way they make you feel. Evil people truly have no remorse.
    If you press them on the fact that they’re unapologetic for their malevolent behavior, they’ll deflect, push it off onto you, and gaslight you into thinking the reality you know to be true isn’t actually true.
    In reality, all they want to do is maintain their current quality of life by controlling you, and an apology would indicate fallibility.
    The evil ones in our world want you to see perfection to keep you wrapped around their fingers.

    1. Doug Smith

      Evil can be defined, but it’s hard to pin down. Simply put: an evil person is someone who engages in malevolent behaviors.

  5. Janna Faulkner

    I love your stories that tie into lessons on life and leadership. Thank you!

  6. Army Captain

    Another well constructed article on the very things we need to be careful on.

    1. Len Jakosky

      Yes, I agree with you Army Captain. Good judgment and great care should always be taken to avoid evil.

  7. Eddie Ray Anderson,

    Yes, we all need to be on the lookout for unethical leaders who will drag us into evil.

    1. Martin Shiell

      Evil is often unseen to the average person. That is why we should forever be in a group of people who can help us.

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