[December 3, 2018] About ten years ago, a little-known book made a splash in business management circles. The reason, I believe, was because the book’s theme was that managers must learn to be leaders if they plan on getting anything of value accomplished.
Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles wrote the book titled, “Gung Ho! Turn on the People in Any Organization”, 1997. Like me, they proclaim that Gung Ho leadership is an invaluable tool that provides managers with methods to increase productivity bypromoting good morale in the workplace.
Back when I was a buck Private in the army, my low-ranking friends and I were quick to dismiss anyone who had been in the military more than a couple of years. “Lifer” was the derogatory term we used to refer to soldiers who showed any gung ho behaviors. Fortunately, that attitude left me later and is rare these days. Today, you are more likely to find gung ho leadership in the military than in the past few decades.
Why gung ho leadership? I think the answer has its seeds in the Vietnam War. Those who were privates and second lieutenants at the time saw for themselves what low morale, low standards, and an aversion to discipline did to the average military trooper and their mission. Things were bad and these junior soldiers swore they would do something about it.
Since Vietnam, those privates and lieutenants have now gone to retirement, but they left the service as Sergeants Majors and Generals. They were able to bring another dimension that the U.S. military needed badly. Call it esprit de corps, comradeship, fighting spirit, or simply gung ho; the attitude to get ‘er done became pervasive to a military that needed a kick in the butt.
Gung Ho leadership was back after many decades. It means, at its very core, to motivate others. People have many layers and levels of self-motivation but there is nothing like external motivation to help improve your performance at home, work, or play. Being an external motivator is the main trait of leaders known as gung ho leaders.
I first met these gung ho leaders back in 1974 as a Private (the lowest rank in the military). These were mid-grade sergeants who had all seen combat in Vietnam and wanted to instill motivation in us “newbies” so that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes they had.